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Monday Thoughts: How to Lose to Iowa

Purdue put on a clinic in losing to Iowa on Saturday.

Purdue v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

How do you lose to an Iowa team with a historically bad offense?

How do you lose a game where you have 21 first downs and your opponent has 12?

How do you lose a game where you go 9-19 on 3rd down and you opponent goes 3-13?

How do you lose a game when you complete 25 passes and your opponent completes 6?

The answer to all of these questions is simple.

You play like Purdue played on Saturday.

Did Purdue really get beat that bad?

The answer is a resounding no. In fact, Purdue would have suffered the “worst” beat of the day if not for Mario Cristobal’s ongoing feud with math. Suffering the worst beat doesn’t come with any prizes, and in some ways is more frustrating than getting your doors blown off by a clearly superior team.

Purdue was better than Iowa and still lost.

That’s not an insult to Iowa, they found a way to win, and that’s the object of the game.

The first quarter was a master class in losing to Iowa.

The Boilermakers started the game strong on defense, holding Iowa to -3 yards on their first drive and after a solid Sheffield punt return put the Boilers at midfield....they self destructed. Despite picking up a first down, the first drive lasted 6 plays and covered 6 yards. Hudson Card made two poor decisions in the course of 5 plays. He handed the ball to Tracy when it was clear he needed to pull it, and got Tyrone smashed for a loss. Then he took an inexplicable sack, that wasn’t really a sack because he threw it away in time, and yet that somehow is not reviewable, but a sack for an 11 yard loss none-the-less. Purdue needs Card to play well. He didn’t play well on the first drive.

After pinning Iowa deep, Purdue’s defense committed a mortal sin. They let Iowa break off a big play for a touchdown. It’s crucial for Iowa to put the ball in the end zone when they because they struggle to finish drives. Three defenders got caught looking at Iowa’s tight end, and Kaleb Johnson was gone for 67 yards. You can’t give up big plays to Iowa, and you don’t want to play from behind against Iowa. One awful down of run defense gave Iowa a huge boost on Saturday.

Purdue needed a quick answer, but instead they managed an 8 play, 34 yard drive that looked great until Gus Hartwig fired a snap at an unsuspecting Hudson Card, turning a 2nd and short into a 3rd and 10. Card went for 7 on the next play with a deep shot to Yaseen, but didn’t put quite enough air under the ball. Can’t fault him, it was a tough throw, but you’ve got to make those types of plays against Iowa. If you’ve got a guy deep, you’ve got to hit him, and Yaseen was open by a half a step. A better throw, if nothing else, draws a P.I. from Iowa. For the second time in the game, Purdue entered the Iowa half of the field, only to punt.

Purdue’s defense does the job on Iowa’s next drive, and forces an interception at the Iowa 38. Purdue starts their third drive inside Iowa territory, and again fail to come away with points. Once again, Card short circuited on 3rd down. Iowa rushed 4 and dropped 7 on a 3rd and 3 and Hudson couldn’t find anything open. Instead of tucking it and running, he attempted to keep the play alive by going backwards, got grabbed by an Iowa defender and lost 10 yards on the sack (technically intentional grounding). The Boilermakers had the ball at the Iowa 14, had to kick from the Iowa 24 after the sack, and missed the field goal.

If you’re keeping track at home, that’s 3 trips into the Hawkeye half the of the field for the offense and all they managed was a missed field goal. You can’t beat Iowa like that. That’s what they want you to do. Their goal on defense is to sit back, make tackles, and watch the other team self destruct on offense, and that’s exactly what happened.

Purdue’s defense held Iowa to another 3 an out. Purdue got the ball in solid field position again, this time at their 38, and Card throws a pick to Iowa star Cooper DeJean one play after Burks drops a deep pass on DeJean the second play of the drive setting Iowa at the 5 yard line. They, being Iowa, snap the ball over their quarterbacks head and have to settle for a field goal, after starting the drive on the Purdue 5 and ending on the Purdue 9.

Despite Purdue dominating most of the first quarter against Iowa, they end it down 10 (technically 7, the field goal comes on the first play of the 2nd quarter). The first quarter is the story of Purdue on Saturday. Purdue didn’t capitalize on 3 trips into Iowa territory and then threw a pick on their 4th drive.

The defense was dominant....except for the one run where one (or possibly two) players messed up an assignment and Iowa put it into the end zone from 70 yards out. The offense moved the ball well, except when they were giving up negative plays at the worst time.

Purdue had two chances on deep balls, both were left wanting. It’s not that Purdue didn’t have chances against Iowa, it’s that they didn’t convert the available chances. Card played his worst quarter of football, making crucial errors. He also looks beat up. He started the game with a a roll of PT tape on his neck, and didn’t look like falling felt good after getting tangled up with / blocked in the back by and Iowa defender on DeJean’s scamper down the sideline. It took him a long time to get off the ground on several occasions.

Iowa’s best three players are Kaleb Johnson, Cooper DeJean and tight end Erick All. Johnson broke off a 70 yard touchdown run in the first quarter. DeJean’s interception return set up a touchdown in the first quarter and All would pay huge dividends later.

Iowa’s best 3 players made plays.

Meanwhile, Card had his worst day at quarterback for Purdue, going 25/40 for 247 a touchdown and 2 interceptions. He also took several unnecessary coverage sacks. Tyrone Tracy went down with an injury after 4 carries for 8 yards. Deion Burks had 4 receptions for 19 yards. Purdue’s 3 most explosive playmakers didn’t make plays. Iowa’s did. That’s the game in a nutshell.

Of course there were bright spots for the Boilermakers throughout the game. Dillion Thieneman had 7 tackles and an interception on the way to being named Big 10 freshman of the week for the second time this season. Devin Mockobee got somewhat on track, taking 20 carries for 89 yards and a touchdown, but he had the ball knocked out of his hands yet again (recovered by Purdue). Card shook off an awful first quarter to make some big plays, including a huge pass to Sheffield before the end of the half that cut the lead to 10-7. Sheffield had a big game as a returner and a receiver. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.

I won’t go through the entire game, but starting in the 2nd quarter, Purdue won this game 14-13. Take away the field goal to start the second quarter, and Purdue wins the final 3 quarters 14-10. The most frustrating part of this game is Purdue should have won the first quarter as well. Opportunity was presented to them on a silver platter and they punched the waiter in the face. Purdue isn’t good enough to leave points on the board, and they left, at minimum, 9 points on the board (assuming every drive ends in a field goal) while gifting Iowa 10 points.

In addition to losing the battle, I’m afraid the Boilermakers may have lost the war. The injury news after the game was worse than the game, and that was one of the most frustrating Purdue games I’ve seen (I feel like I’m saying this after every Purdue game this season). Starting right tackle Marcus M’Bow is out for the season. He’s probably Purdue’s second best offensive lineman. One of the players Purdue couldn’t afford to lose on offense is lost. We also found out that the Illinois game claimed Purdue’s number one corner, Marquis Wilson. One of the players Purdue couldn’t afford to lose on defense is lost. To further complicate matters, promising tight end Max Klare is also done for the season after an injury in the Illinois game and Tracy is a long shot to play in the Ohio State game after suffering an injury early in the Iowa game.

Things have gone from bad to Ohio State coming into West Lafayette to play a beat up Purdue squad in front of a restless crowd. Ryan Walters must find a way to keep this thing respectable. I’m afraid a blowout loss could send this season into a death spiral that hurts recruiting, fan engagement, and burns up an inordinate amount of patience from the Purdue fan reserve. I’m worried that there isn’t a way, considering the injuries.

I hope I’m wrong.