It was only a matter of time before someone exposed Iowa’s defensive deficiencies. The most surprising part of the Hawkeyes loss is that it came at home…against Purdue. With the loss, the Hawkeyes fall to 11th in the country and the Big Ten can no longer boast five teams ranked in the AP Top 10. The Big Ten was the only conference to share that honor with the SEC, even if the abbreviated run lasted only a week.
With Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan all idle last Saturday, the attention of the conference turned to Michigan State, Iowa, and Nebraska.
Purdue tops Iowa 24-7
In the first half of the season, the Hawkeye defense feasted on turnovers. Defensive line pressure forced errant throws from opposing quarterbacks, and the Hawkeye DBs took full advantage. That wasn’t the case on Saturday though. Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm rotated a trio of quarterbacks which kept the Iowa defense on their heels and prohibited them from applying pressure up front. Mixing in quarterback runs slowed down the Hawkeye pass rush, and they had no answer on the perimeter for WR David Bell. Bell had 11 catches for a whopping 240 yards, and he seemed to toy with anyone who challenged him. After a few big plays, the amount of cushion Bell received was immense. Without consistent QB pressure, the Iowa secondary became much more tentative than they had been in prior weeks.
Playing with a lead allowed the Purdue defense to pin their ears back and attack QB Spencer Petras. Petras has had the luxury of playing with a lead and relying on his running game all season, but on Saturday, it was all on him. The rushing attack provided a paltry 76 yards, so there wasn’t much help to be had. Iowa isn’t built to play in a chase game, and that’s what Purdue was able to do. Maryland should’ve been able to attack the Hawkeyes the same way, but early injuries and turnovers did them in. We now have the recipe to beat the Hawkeyes: use talented WRs to attack their DBs, get an early lead, and force Petras to make plays. Purdue executed it to near perfection.
Michigan State outlast Indiana 20-15
With a bye week up next and a potential top 10 showdown with in-state rival Michigan to end the month, this was a classic trap game for the Spartans, especially since this matchup has quietly become a nice rivalry the past few seasons. The Hoosiers took the win in 2020, so revenge should’ve been on Michigan State’s mind. Though the Spartans jumped out early with a defensive score, thanks to a Cal Haladay pick 6, the rest of the 1st half belonged to the Hoosiers. The Hoosier defense was able to force the Spartans into four 3 & outs in the first half, and they held star RB Kenneth Walker III to a paltry 84 rushing yards for the entire game.
It wasn’t enough though. Hoosier HC Tom Allen probably didn’t plan on forcing reserve QB Jack Tuttle to attempt 52 passes. That was far too many for the junior from San Marcos, CA. He had to play great in relief of Michal Penix, and too often, he came up short. Indiana has faced an incredibly difficult schedule to start the season, and it’s not going to get much easier with Ohio State on the horizon.
This is a game that Michigan State typically finds a way to lose, and the weight of expectations could’ve been too much for them. Credit HC Mel Tucker for finding a way to pull out an ugly win and keep the Spartans in the top 10.
Minnesota downs Nebraska 30-23
Nebraska found another way to lose a one-possession game. They have now lost five straight one-possession games. These are the type of losses that can wear on a squad and can linger from one game to the next. HC Scott Frost has his work cut out for him while he tries to remedy their late game struggles. Players almost come to expect to find ways to lose, and he will have to fix their mindset moving forward.
Still, this game never really felt as close as the final score would indicate. Gophers QB Tanner Morgan was incredibly efficient outside of 2 INTs that kept Nebraska in the game. The real story for Minnesota was the performance of the running game. After they lost star RB Muhammed Ibrahim to start the season, it seemed likely that their rushing attack would crumble. However, behind the performance of RB Bryce Williams and his 127 yards, the Gophers racked up 187 yards on the ground. With a 4-2 record and a manageable remaining schedule, look for Minnesota to make a late run in the West.