Iowa tops Purdue, earns trip to Big Ten title game

Luke Meredith
Associated Press
Iowa tight end Henry Krieger Coble catches a pass in front of Purdue safety Leroy Clark during the first half.

Iowa City, Iowa — Iowa barely acknowledged winning the Big Ten West.

The Hawkeyes have much bigger goals.

C.J. Beathard threw three touchdown passes and No. 6 Iowa clinched a share of the West title and a spot in the Big Ten championship game with a 40-20 win over Purdue on Saturday.

Northwestern's win over Wisconsin later in the day handed the West Division title to the Hawkeyes outright.

LeShun Daniels Jr. ran for two TDs for the Hawkeyes (11-0, 7-0 Big Ten, No. 5 CFP), who’ll play at Nebraska next week in search of their first 12-0 regular season — just a year after finishing 7-6.

“To me, it’s just a matter of us focusing a little bit harder. Doing a little bit better,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “But ultimately it comes to everybody doing a much better job.”

Iowa let Purdue get within 20-13 in the third quarter. But Beathard’s 22-yard TD pass to Henry Krieger-Coble with 8:40 left sealed yet another victory for the Hawkeyes, who dashed off the field rather than celebrate after the final whistle with a trip to Nebraska just six days away.

Austin Appleby had 259 yards passing to lead Purdue (2-9, 1-6), which will play for the Old Oaken Bucket next week against Indiana.

There “are situations when you’re playing a good football team that you have to be right on point. Obviously, we didn’t do that,” Purdue coach Darrell Hazell said.

The first winter storm of the season dumped roughly eight inches of snow on Iowa City overnight. The skies cleared by kickoff, but the temperatures remained in the low 20s with wind gusts that made it feel closer to zero degrees.

The conditions seemed ideal for the run-heavy, defensive-minded Hawkeyes.

But once again, it was Beathard who made the plays that helped keep Iowa unbeaten.

Daniels opened the scoring with a 2-yard TD. He then went 13 yards to give Iowa a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, and Beathard’s 7-yard TD pass to Matt VandeBerg made it 20-0.

But Iowa went into a brief funk — and Purdue got going after starting quarterback David Blough went out with an apparent head injury.

The Boilermakers closed to 20-13 by halftime on a 1-yard TD by Markell Jones and two short field goals by Paul Griggs.

Jones had 87 yards rushing for the Boilermakers.

Beathard made Purdue pay for a number of missed opportunities though, finding George Kittle for a 35-yard TD pass and a 27-13 lead late in the third. Beathard finished with 213 yards passing and tied a season high for touchdown passes in the worst conditions Iowa had seen all year.

Senior Jordan Canzeri, in his final carry at Kinnick Stadium, ran for a 42-yard touchdown with 2:12 left that kicked off a celebration in Iowa City, with fans chanting “Let’s Go Hawks!”

“Really a fitting end,” Ferentz said. “A great moment for him. A guy who has gone through a lot, and he’s been a strong leader. A very positive leader.”

Now the Hawkeyes — picked to finish in the middle of the West by nearly pundit in August — are just two victories away from a possible playoff berth.

“It’s definitely a day I’ll carry (with me) for the rest of my life,” Iowa center Austin Blythe said.

Next up for Iowa is a date on the road Friday with the rival Cornhuskers, a game that now means nearly nothing in the league standings but everything as far as the playoffs are concerned.

“We haven’t looked ahead to any games. There have been opportunities to with all the outside noise,” Beathard said. “We want to win every game this season…and we’re focused on Nebraska.”