Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz says some of the issue is mental after falling at home, 24-15. Chad Leistikow / The Register
IOWA CITY, Ia. — This was embarrassing.
More dropped passes. Incompetent special teams. Pathetic pass coverage.
Iowa was ill-prepared, outcoached and outplayed in a 24-15 loss to Purdue before a frustrated, season-low Kinnick Stadium crowd of 60,554.
Hawkeye fans who braved the blustery conditions saw a lethargic performance in which players on the home team bumbled around while their coaches were too slow to make adjustments.
That attitude was underscored by Purdue’s lickety-split start to the second half, in which quarterback Elijah Sindelar’s mission was simple and clear: Throw to the cornerback not named Josh Jackson.
Sindelar threw four straight times at helpless right cornerback Manny Rugamba to start the second half — one throw drew a pass-interference flag, and three were completions, the last of which went for a 42-yard touchdown to Anthony Mahoungou.
Rugamba was benched, but that move didn’t help.
After an Iowa three-and-out (stop me if you’ve heard that before), Purdue threw over the top of Michael Ojemudia to Mahoungou for 35 yards. Ojemudia was benched for Matt Hankins.
So, Sindelar then just threw over the top of Hankins and to Mahoungou for a 16-yard touchdown and a 21-9 lead.
The Boilermakers’ scoring drives took a combined 2 minutes, 3 seconds.
Finally, flat-footed Iowa coaches finally realized they might want to cover Mahoungou with their best corner, Josh Jackson, and they did on Purdue's next drive. But by that point, as it would turn out, it was too late.
That was emblematic of the type of day it was for the Hawkeyes, who have now had most, if not all, of the feel-good momentum of their 55-24 win against Ohio State two weeks ago stripped away.
They had scored one offensive touchdown in two weeks until a garbage-time touchdown pass from Nate Stanley to Noah Fant with 64 seconds to play.
Fant, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Matt VandeBerg and Nick Easley dropped passes Saturday. The offensive line couldn't block Boiler blitzers, yielding six (yes, six) sacks.
Iowa roughed the punter, setting up Purdue's first touchdown. VandeBerg failed to catch a punt that went for 68 yards. Then when he got his hands on one in the fourth quarter, he fumbled it away. That recurring problem in the punt-return game continues to perplex.
This loss falls on head coach Kirk Ferentz, on offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, on defensive coordinator Phil Parker, on special teams coordinator LeVar Woods. There’s no excuse to look this bad in November when you run a developmental program that is supposed to peak in this month.
The Boilermakers (now 5-6) lost four weeks ago to Rutgers. They lost three weeks ago to Nebraska — a team that can’t get out of its own way or stop anyone.
Luckily for Iowa, that’s the next opponent on Black Friday in Lincoln. Maybe Iowa can finish 7-5 yet. The Cornhuskers were well on their way to 4-7 as the Iowa game ended.
After Saturday, the fan bases for both teams probably feel like the end of the season can't get here soon enough.
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 23 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.