Following an impressive 44-19 victory over the Illinois Fighting Illini, Purdue will take to the road and head to Iowa and look to pull even on the season at 3-3. Iowa has jumped out to a 4-1 record with their only loss Penn State but the offense has look putrid throughout the entire season. Those issues on offense were only compounded with the loss of Cade McNamara to an injury for the season. Iowa will lean on sophomore Deacon Hill who is not the athlete or the caliber of quarterback that McNamara was.
Let’s get into the keys for the Boilers versus the Hawkeyes!
#1 Pressure, Pressure, Pressure
As mentioned above, Iowa will be without Cade McNamara after his leg injury and will be starting sophomore Deacon Hill instead. Originally a Wisconsin commit, Hill has a big arm but just doesn’t have the threat level to break the pocket that some of the previous quarterbacks Purdue has faced. That means, more often times than not, Purdue will be able to pin their ears back and look to get to Hill in the pocket before he has time to set his feet and find receivers around the field.
Purdue has found success this season with Kydran Jenkins and Nic Scourton putting lots of pressure in the backfield and it showed for the entire defense last week against the Illini. Purdue generated 5 sacks (a sixth came on an XP), 7 tackles for loss, and 5 more quarterback hurries. Purdue will find success in pressuring Hill and forcing him into bad decisions to allow Dillion Thieneman and the other defensive backs to make plays on the ball. Purdue needs to have a similar game to that of the Illini game and not allow another backup quarterback have a career day...because that’s never happened to Purdue, ever.
#2 Establish the Run with Tracy, Mockobee, and Downing
Iowa’s defense is really, really good. Is it the best that Purdue will face all season with Michigan and Ohio State still on the schedule? Probably not, but it will be tough sledding for the Boilers if they can’t be a threat in the run game and become one dimensional. To ensure Purdue can keep Iowa off balance, getting the run game going will likely be the biggest key offensively for the Boilermakers.
Against Illinois, Tyrone Tracy continued his growth as a running back with his first ever 100 yard rushing game with 112 yards and added a rushing touchdown. In fact, Purdue rushed for over 200 yards against the Illini when you remove Hudson Card’s -20 due to sacks. Tracy is a legit receiving threat out of the backfield and having him as the primary back just makes Purdue’s offense difficult to defend with that ability.
The concern continues to be Devin Mockobee’s penchant for turning the ball over as he had another fumble that happened as Purdue appeared ready to put the game away in the first half. Iowa’s defense is what is keeping them in games and allowing their bad offense to have short fields to work with.
Purdue will likely need to rush for 150 yards to control the tempo and wear the Iowa defense down for late in the game where Purdue wants to be in a close game with a chance to win on the road. It also shouldn’t be understated that Tyrone Tracy will be playing his former team and that might be some extra motivation for the running back who felt he was out of position at Iowa.
#3 Keep the Ball Out of Cooper DeJean’s Hands
I don’t say this lightly about DeJean’s ability because the dude is a straight up playmaker, but Purdue can’t throw arrant passes his way for interceptions nor can they afford to punt to him. This might sound a bit ridiculous but with how bad Iowa’s offense has looked for most of this season, the best solution may be to punt the ball out of bounds to keep it away from Iowa’s best offensive weapon. Yes, a defensive back who has not played offense and returns punts is Iowa’s best offensive player so far this season.
Jack Ansell has had a good start to the season and has looked vastly improved from last season but Purdue can ill afford a bad punt that sets up Iowa on a return that gives them short fields, momentum for their offense, or worst of all...a punt return for a touchdown.
#4 Keep Leshon Williams and Kaleb Williams Under Control
Outside of what Purdue will see from Michigan and Ohio State, this is the best backfield the Boilers will see all season. These are two NFL quality running backs but Iowa’s offensive line has struggled to generate lanes for them up to this point in time. Purdue’s defensive scheme under Ryan Walters puts a lot of bodies in the box and forces the quarterback to make throws in man coverage a lot of times and that typically bodes well for stopping the run. In both of Purdue’s wins so far this season, Purdue did not allow a 100 yard rusher. In two of the three losses however, Purdue gave up massive plays in the running game and even showed some struggles to defend the quarterback running game (that did appear to get solved after the first play went for 49 yards for Luke Altmeyer).
Purdue may not be built to totally stop the caliber of running backs that Iowa has but if they can limit big plays by not allowing a run of over 15 yards and keep Iowa behind the chains and in 3rd and long situations, it forces the game into Deacon Hill’s hands, which is likely where Purdue wants the game to be (again, Purdue has never had issues with backup quarterbacks looking like Joe Montana or anything....)
#5 Deion Burks Needs the Ball
Burks is an explosive talent with the ball in his hands and the game against Illinois showed that even more. His diving catch inside the ten yard line in the 3rd quarter was an incredible show of focus and athleticism but his touchdown off a reverse where he used his raw speed to get the corner and score was even more so. It was the play that really sealed the game for Purdue and a play that really left Illinois deflated moving forward.
Burks will need to be given opportunities to pressure the Iowa defense by using his speed down the field to open up the running lanes for the Boiler running backs. Once Graham Harrell started that last week, the running lanes really opened up for Tracy, Mockobee, and Downing. I think it would be beneficial to get Burks another rush or two and get him opportunities in the quick screen game as well.
Can Burks be a menace like David Bell was for so many years? It’s yet to be seen against Iowa but the ability is truly there. Burks likely needs at least a score and 100 yards receiving for Purdue to pull the upset here.