Purdue 24, Iowa 15: What we learned

Matthew Bain
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — The Iowa Hawkeyes lost, 24-15, to Purdue on Saturday afternoon in front of 60,544 fans at Kinnick Stadium.

That's a season low for attendance by more than 5,000.

"It's tough," Josey Jewell said. "It just shows you that we have to come out ready every week, and any team can do anything."

Here's what we learned from a somber Senior Day for the Hawkeyes: 

A reallllly bad 10 minutes for Iowa corners not named Josh Jackson: Believe it or not, Iowa led this game, 9-7, at halftime. But Purdue made some quality adjustments at halftime. Namely, it decided to attack the side of the field where Josh Jackson wasn’t.

Manny Rugamba was the first victim. Lined up one-on-one against Anthony Mahoungou, Rugamba was targeted four consecutive times: an 11-yard completion, an 8-yard pass interference, a 14-yard completion and a 42-yard touchdown.

Rugamba then sat. Michael Ojemudia began the next drive on Mahoungou and lasted just one play — a 35-yard completion.

Iowa tight end Noah Fant drops a pass during the Hawkeyes' game against Purdue at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017.

Then the freshman Matt Hankins came in. After a negative rush from D.J. Knox, Purdue quarterback Elijah Sindelar targeted Mahoungou once again, this time for a 16-yard touchdown. Hankins couldn't do a thing. And all the while, Jackson blanketed his guy harmlessly.

So, let’s review: 14 points and 118 yards on Iowa’s three corners not named Josh Jackson in a span of about 10 minutes.

"It came down to execution," Jewell said of that sequence.

In response, Iowa switched Jackson to Mahoungou’s side of the field to stop the bleeding. But the damage was done.

Leistikow's First Word:No excuses for outcoached, outplayed Hawkeyes

OK. Seriously. The punting game has to be addressed: The Hawkeyes punted seven times today. In all, those boots combined for a net of 209 yards. That’s 29.9 per punt, folks. That’s really, very, incredibly, super-duper not ideal for a Division I special teams unit. Sure, there was a strong gust tonight. But the Boilermakers played in the same air, and they were able to pin the Hawkeyes in their 20 four times and boot it 68 yards on another occasion. Iowa’s best boot of the day came off the foot of Nate Stanley, who pinned Purdue at its 3-yard line with a pooch punt from the 34. That set up Nathan Bazata’s safety.

Pretty much only one successful sequence of plays for the Hawkeyes: There was really only one legitimate sequence of plays that looked good for Iowa on Saturday. It began with Stanley’s great pooch punt, followed by Bazata’s safety.

Purdue sliced its ensuing free kick out of bounds, and Iowa’s offense functioned at its highest level in two weeks. Arum Wadley rushed for 28 yards, including a 2-yard score. And Stanley found Matt VandeBerg for 18 yards on a fourth-and-5 from Purdue’s 20.

Iowa’s offense gained 142 yards for the rest of the game.

Offensive front outmatched by Purdue’s: Iowa’s offensive front regressed back to its underwhelming mean against the Boilermakers. Not necessarily in the ground game — Wadley and James Butler combined for 116 yards on 29 carries.

But in pass protection, Stanley routinely faced a collapsing pocket and was sacked six times for 44 yards. (He escaped a couple of sure sacks, too.) He’d been sacked 16 times through Iowa’s first 10 games.

"It falls on me a little bit, too," Stanley said. "I’ve got to get the ball out quicker."

Stanley wasn't great, but he wasn't as bad as his line would indicate: Speaking of Stanley, his final stat line doesn't look too good: 16-for-33 for 176 yards, one touchdown and one interception. But he actually performed better than those stats would lead you to believe.

Dropped passes hurt him today. Noah Fant dropped his first pass — Iowa’s first play of the game. Nick Easley, Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Matt VandeBerg joined the drop party throughout the afternoon, too.

Matthew Bain covers college football and basketball recruiting for the Des Moines Register. He also helps out with Iowa and Iowa State football and basketball coverage for HawkCentral and Cyclone Insider. Contact him at mbain@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.