Saturday's Big Ten: Aidan O'Connell, David Bell carry Purdue past No. 2 Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa — The pressure, Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said, was all on No. 2 Iowa.
The Hawkeyes started the season with six consecutive wins and the program had ascended to its highest ranking since 1985.
“For us,” Brohm said, “let’s go out there and swing, and keep swinging, and hope for the best.”
The Boilermakers connected, just as they’ve been doing against the Hawkeyes in recent seasons.
Aidan O’Connell threw for 374 yards and accounted for three touchdowns, David Bell had a career-best 240 yards receiving, and Purdue continued its recent mastery over Iowa with a 24-7 upset Saturday.
The Boilermakers (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) have won four of their last five games against the Hawkeyes (6-1, 3-1). The loss ended Iowa’s 12-game winning streak, including nine consecutive in Big Ten play.
Purdue beat its highest ranked opponent on the road since a victory at No. 2 Notre Dame in 1974. It was the second time in four seasons Purdue has knocked off a No. 2-ranked team. The Boilermakers won at home against second-ranked Ohio State in 2018.
“Basically they outdid us in every category,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “The bottom line is we didn’t get it done.”
The Hawkeyes tried to be positive heading into their bye week. Their Big Ten West Division title hopes are still there, and they could still find themselves in the College Football Playoff picture if they win out.
“Our goals are all in front of us at this point,” quarterback Spencer Petras said. “One thing we can’t do is be undefeated, but everything else is out there for our taking. We’ve done a lot of good the first seven weeks, a lot of bad, most of that today. We have to regroup.”
But, Ferentz said, they had no answer for the Boilermakers, who took control of the game early. They never let Iowa’s offense get into a rhythm, and they kept the ball away from a defense that came in leading the nation in takeaways and turnover margin.
“We knew if we found a way to get a lead it would definitely help us,” Brohm said.
Purdue was 9 of 16 on third down, and two of the Boilermakers’ touchdown drives lasted 10 plays.
“They came out ready to roll,” Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell said.
O’Connell was 30 of 40 passing with two touchdowns, and he also ran for a score. He got the most work on a day when Purdue used backup quarterbacks Jack Plummer and Austin Burton in select situations. All three were in on different plays during the Boilermakers’ first-quarter drive that ended with O’Connell’s 6-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead.
“It was just so fun,” O’Connell said, comparing the quarterback shuffle to line changes in hockey.
O’Connell threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to TJ Sheffield in the final minute of the first half to give Purdue a 14-7 halftime lead. He threw a 21-yard TD pass to Bell in the fourth quarter.
“Sometimes when you try to use some creativity, it works,” Brohm said of the quarterback changes. “Sometimes it looks (bad). We took some chances with it, and fortunately today it worked.”
Bell had 11 receptions. He has a combined 37 catches for 558 yards and five touchdowns against Iowa in three seasons.
“I think the reason he’s been able to exploit them is he’s one of the best receivers in the country,” Brohm said.
O’Connell said the quiet Bell is “so destructive of a player for a defense.”
Bell didn’t know how many yards he had until he heard it from his mother after the game.
“It was definitely nice hearing it from her,” Bell said.
Iowa’s offense was ineffective against Purdue, which came in third in the Big Ten in total defense and scoring defense. The Hawkeyes’ only score was a 3-yard touchdown run by Ivory Kelly-Martin in the second quarter, and Iowa had just 271 yards of offense.
Iowa scored its fewest points at home since a 13-7 loss to Nebraska in 2012. The 17-point margin was Iowa’s largest in a home loss since Wisconsin won 28-9 at Kinnick Stadium in 2013.
The Hawkeyes’ defense, which came in leading the nation with 20 takeaways and a plus-15 turnover margin, only had one takeaway. That came in the third quarter when Sheffield, trying to dive for the end zone, had the ball slip out of his hand, hit the pylon and go out of bounds for a touchback.
Purdue intercepted Petras four times, the most thrown in a game by Iowa in 12 years.
More Big Ten
► (At) Minnesota 30, Nebraska 23: Tanner Morgan threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns and Bryce Williams rushed for 127 yards and another score for Minnesota.
The Gophers dominated the first half, taking a 21-9 lead behind near-perfect passing from Morgan. But Nebraska (3-5, 1-4) flipped the script in the second half, forcing two interceptions to get back into the game. However, a number of missed opportunities prevented the Huskers from taking the lead and allowed Minnesota (4-2, 2-1) to hang on.
Given short fields twice in the third quarter after Minnesota punts, the Huskers drove deep into Gophers territory but came up empty both times. First, the Gophers defense made three consecutive stops at the goal line to force a turnover on downs. Then Nebraska kicker Connor Culp missed a 27-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The Huskers faced another decision midway through the fourth quarter when it was fourth-and-10 from the Minnesota 34. Trailing 21-16, Nebraska head coach Scott Frost elected to go for it, but a heavy pass rush forced an incompletion and another turnover on downs.
That led to the game’s key sequence. On the ensuing drive, the Gophers punted instead of electing to go for it on fourth-and-1 near midfield. On first down from his own 11, Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez was wrapped up in the end zone by Esezi Otomewo. Martinez threw the ball away but was called for intentional grounding, resulting in a safety that made it 23-16.
Minnesota got the ball back after the safety and pushed its lead to 30-16 on a 56-yard touchdown run by Bryce Williams with 2:12 to play.
► (At) Northwestern 21, Rutgers 7: Ryan Hilinski threw for 267 yards and two touchdown passes to boost Northwestern to its first win in Big Ten play.
Hilinski opened the scoring for the Wildcats (3-3, 1-2) by capping off a 98-yard drive in the first quarter by hitting Malik Washington for a 64-yard touchdown pass. Washington plowed through a downfield defender on his touchdown grab and finished with 84 receiving yards on five catches.
Fellow wideout Stephon Robinson Jr. had 115 yards, taking pressure off a Wildcats rushing attack that struggled to get going throughout the day. Often a key to Northwestern’s offensive approach, the ground game combined for just 137 yards on 48 attempts.
Northwestern appeared to be a favorable matchup for the Scarlet Knights (3-4, 0-4). But with five of its first six drives ending in punts, Rutgers couldn’t muster enough offense. Though quarterback Noah Vedral hit all four of his passes on Rutgers’ only scoring drive of the game, he put together an altogether inconsistent day, going 18 of 30 for 152 yards.
Marshall Lang added a 2-yard touchdown reception in the second and Andrew Clair’s fourth-quarter TD run padded the lead for Northwestern.
►(At) Wisconsin 20, Army 14: Leo Chenal recorded 17 tackles and set up a touchdown with a sack that forced a fumble. Army trailed 13-7 and had the ball when Chenal delivered a punishing hit that knocked the ball loose from quarterback Tyhier Tyler. Wisconsin’s Keeanu Benton recovered the fumble at Army’s 1-yard line with 2:55 remaining.
On the next play, Graham Mertz scored on a quarterback keeper. Mertz also scored on a 5-yard keeper in the second quarter, giving him his first two touchdown runs of the season.
Army cut the lead to 20-14 on A.J. Howard’s 6-yard touchdown run with 38 seconds left, but Jack Sanborn recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the victory.
Wisconsin’s Braelon Allen rushed for 108 yards on 16 carries, including a 33-yard touchdown.
This marked the second straight game in which Allen rushed for at least 100 yards. The 17-year-old freshman ran for 131 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries last week in a 24-0 victory at Illinois.
Army (4-2) played a second straight game without usual starting quarterback Christian Anderson, who is dealing with a shoulder injury. The Black Knights lost 28-16 to Ball State without Anderson two weeks ago.
Tyler and Jabari Laws both played quarterback in Anderson’s absence. Tyler started, played most of the game and rushed for 90 yards on 17 carries. Laws had all of Army’s pass attempts and went 5 of 6 for 87 yards.
Wisconsin (3-3) led 13-0 at halftime and outgained Army 230-48 in the first two periods before the Black Knights rallied, thanks to Tyler’s tenacity.