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Purdue 38, #16 Iowa 36: On the Brink of a Bowl

Ross-Ade Stadium is where ranked teams go to die.

NCAA Football: Iowa at Purdue Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

Three ranked teams have walked into Ross-Ade Stadium this season.

Three ranked teams have left with a loss.

That is pretty crazy to think about, especially when Purdue started the season 0-3 at home against unranked teams. Also, Purdue had not beaten a ranked team since 2011 before this season, it was 0-18 in its previous 18 games against ranked teams, and its three previous wins over ranked teams were over #23 Illinois in 2011, #7 Ohio State in 2009, and #10 Iowa in 2003.

That’s just incredible to think about. Our Boilers are killers of ranked teams this year at home. As I was leaving the stadium I overheard the radio broadcast say that it was the first time since 1959 we have beaten three ranked teams at home in one season. That year we beat #8 Notre Dame, #9 Wisconsin, and #15 Iowa at home. It’s just another amazing stat on what has been a very fun few weeks.

It is all part of one of the strangest Purdue seasons I have ever been a part of. We’re 5-1 in our last six, but lost at home to Eastern Michigan. We have had three of six home games come down to last second field goals. We have won games thanks to penalties and lost games thanks to penalties. We could win four road games in one season for the first time since 1943, and again, WE LOST AT HOME TO EASTERN MICHIGAN.

Today was an exhibition how Jeff Brohm is changing the culture in West Lafayette. Purdue entered the fourth quarter with a 12-point lead, but it felt a little bit like last season’s Nebraska game. Purdue entered that game with a 12-point fourth quarter lead and lost it on a pair of fourth quarter TDs. In that one Nebraska’s second TD came with 14 seconds left.

Tonight, Iowa wasted little time in getting the second one. Mekhi Sargent scored from a yard out with 12:29 left to cap a 12 play, 75 yard drive. David Blough then threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown, but called back. Sargent scored again 5 plays later, but for the second time the Hawkeyes failed to convert a deuce.

That opened the door for Purdue. Each team traded punts, but a short punt by Iowa gave Purdue a chance with under 5 minutes left. The Boilers got a drive going, got a pass interference, and set up Spencer Evans with an easy 25-yard field goal for the win.

Coach Brohm said it was great to win without being perfect. He’s right. Blough threw a pair of ugly interceptions. We didn’t have a ton of a running game. We gave them four points right before halftime with an offsides by Derrick Barnes. Still, it was enough.

Of course, I need to say something about Terry Wright, who absolutely balled out today. He had 6 receptions for 146 yards and 3 touchdowns. His 82-yard touchdown was excellent, as it came after the Boilers forced a three and out to start the second half. Instead of getting a drive going to take a lead the Hawkeyes punted, then Blough dropped a perfect pass one play later for six, hitting Wright in stride.

Of course, Rondale Moore also had a say in this one. Iowa mostly held him in check. His streak of games with at least one play of 40 yards is over after he only had 6 catches for 31 yards, but his 24-yard punt return set up Wright’s third touchdown. Even in a game where he didn’t really make a big play… he made a big play.

To the surprise of even me Purdue is 5-4 on the season now. We enter the final quarter of the year needing one win to clinch a bowl game. That’s astounding after the 0-3 start. As long as the Bucket stays in West Lafayette we’ll be playing in the postseason, but we can also clinch it as early as next week. There is even the outside shot of winning the West if we get some help. The important thing is that Purdue anti-Purdue’d today. It had a lead, blew it, then came back to win. It had an answer at all times. It played confident, focused football on the final drive.

That entire last paragraph is a welcome relief.