WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — What do you get when you combine Akrum and LeShun? AkShun, of course.
There was plenty of it for Iowa’s talented tailback tandem Saturday, as the Hawkeyes steamrolled a depleted Purdue defense for a 49-35 victory that wasn’t nearly as close as that score indicates.
Akrum Wadley ran for 170 yards and one touchdown. LeShun Daniels Jr. added 156 yards and two more scores. The Hawkeyes (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten Conference) built a quick four-touchdown lead to ruin homecoming for the announced crowd of 40,239 at Ross-Ade Stadium.
“The offensive line, they did a great job. They did what Iowa’s known for, which is bully football,” Wadley said. “They went out there, pushed a few jokers around and definitely lightened the load up for me and LeShun.”
There were superlatives galore for the Iowa offense. Its 365 rushing yards was the most in 14 seasons. Wadley and Daniels became the first running back duo to eclipse 100 yards in the same game since 2008 (Shonn Greene and Jewell Hampton against Indiana).
The 49 points was the most the Hawkeyes have ever scored at Purdue and the most in any Big Ten game since 2008 (55 against Minnesota).
It also was the ninth consecutive road victory, the longest streak in program history.
“All we had to do was be patient, wait a half-second and then see the hole and hit it,” Daniels said. “When the linemen are making holes like that, pretty much anybody can run through them.”
Wadley and Daniels also each recorded the longest gains of their Iowa careers, and their timing, as usual, was impeccable.
The Hawkeyes scored touchdowns on four of their first five possessions to take a 28-0 lead late in the second quarter. Purdue (3-3, 1-2), seeking back-to-back victories for the first time in four seasons after winning at Illinois last week, finally put together a scoring drive, catching the Hawkeye secondary napping for a 25-yard David Blough to Brycen Hopkins touchdown.
Momentum shift? Hardly.
Wadley did the shifting on the very next play, bursting through a hole, picking up a block from wide receiver Jay Scheel and outrunning the Purdue defense for a 75-yard touchdown to give Iowa a 35-7 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, Purdue again victimized Iowa’s defensive backfield for a 53-yard Blough to Cole Herdman touchdown.
This time, Daniels foiled the Boilermakers with a 67-yard jaunt on the first ensuing play. That set up a 5-yard touchdown toss from Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard to freshman Noah Fant. The Hawkeyes led 42-14 after three quarters.
“It’s something we try to put an emphasis on these past two weeks is coming out with energy and sticking with it, too. Not letting them breathe,” Iowa guard Sean Welsh said after helping his team build a season-high mark in time of possession of 36 minutes, 6 seconds. “It kind of deprives them of confidence.”
Not that Purdue had much to begin with. The Boilermakers, who were gouged for 400 rushing yards two weeks ago in a 50-7 loss to Maryland, were playing without middle linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley and defensive tackle Jape Replogle, their two best defensive players.
Purdue did dominate the fourth quarter after Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz put his reserves in. The Boilermakers gained 243 yards in the final 15 minutes, with Blough throwing three more touchdown passes. But he also threw an interception that Hawkeye cornerback Desmond King returned 41 yards for a touchdown after Ferentz reinserted his starters.
“It seemed like a land-speed record for a touchdown,” Ferentz said of one Purdue 80-yard scoring drive, expressing disappointment in his second-stringers. “Learning the tempo of the game, you can’t do that until you get out on the game field. They all got educated today.”
It only mattered to those obsessed with statistics. The Hawkeyes, led by their two AkShun figures, toyed with Purdue all afternoon.
“LeShun is playing his best football since he’s been here, and I’d say the same thing about Akrum,” Ferentz said.
Daniels is a steady senior. Wadley, a junior, is more mercurial. His Hawkeye career has been marked by an effort to keep weight on his frame.
“When he gets over 190, I’m going to give him a hug and smile and say really nice things about him,” Ferentz joked.
But was he talking about pounds or yards? Some Saturday soon, Wadley may get there in both categories.