Purdue 24, Iowa 20 | Grading the Boilers

Mike Carmin
Lafayette Journal & Courier
Oct 24, 2020; West Lafayette, Indiana, USA; Purdue Boilermakers cornerback Cam Allen (18) recovers a fumble and celebrates in the second half against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Ross-Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

OFFENSE

B

Aidan O’Connell was solid when he needed to be, and the rushing yardage generated by Zander Horvath allowed the offense to present a balanced attack. The Hawkeyes were playing for the pass, allowing Horvath the openings but credit the offensive line – which used numerous players, including freshman Gus Hartwig at center – to create running lanes. When the lanes weren’t there, Horvath made them with his muscular frame and ran over defenders – or jumped over them. Remember his 33-yard gain? What else can you say about David Bell? Another monster game against Iowa and his three touchdown receptions were the difference. Milton Wright also stepped up with some big plays. O’Connell wasn’t perfect – two interceptions and missing Horvath in the flat a couple of times in the red zone – but has a knack for game-winning drives.

DEFENSE

B

Started strong. Finished strong. The middle, well, there’s something to focus on next week. The new defense, guided by first-year coordinator Bob Diaco, came out fast and closed out the game. The players talked about its bend-but-don’t break approach and that applied to this victory. Iowa gashed the Boilermakers in the running game several times - the Hawkeyes finished with 195 yards - but Diaco’s group stepped up and forced a field goal or created a turnover. A forced fumble by Dedrick Mackey and the recovery by Cam Allen set up the game-winning drive. Purdue held the Hawkeyes to only a field goal in the second half after giving up 17 points in the second quarter. The defense was full of unknowns before kickoff, but we know a lot more now and it could lead to more promising results.

Oct 24, 2020; West Lafayette, Indiana, USA; Purdue Boilermakers running back Zander Horvath (40) runs the ball while Iowa Hawkeyes linebacker Nick Niemann (49) defends in the second quarter at Ross-Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

SPECIAL TEAMS

C

Nothing spectacular happened but nothing went drastically wrong. And that’s usually a good thing for this group. J.D. Dellinger made a key fourth-quarter field goal to bring Purdue within three points and the Boilermakers didn’t let Ihmir Smith-Marsette – the Big Ten’s all-time leading returner in kickoff yardage – bust a long one. The Boilermakers accomplish it without their coordinator – Mary Biagi – who was in quarantine, adding another layer to the adversity that hit the program this week.

COACHING

A

Give it up for Brian Brohm. First time on the sideline as a coach. First time calling plays. Is he 1-0 or does this go on Jeff Brohm’s record? Minor detail but the younger Brohm managed the situation well, both the playcalling and the game. He recognized the Hawkeyes were more worried about the pass and kept feeding the ball to Horvath. Granted, Purdue left Iowa with plenty of time after Bell’s third touchdown, but you’ve got to take the points when they’re presented. Diaco organized his group at halftime and kept the Hawkeyes out of the end zone.

PLAY OF THE GAME

Forced fumble by Mackey, recovery by Allen with six minutes to play. The Hawkeyes were driving, chewing up yardage on the ground when Mekhi Sargent – who had gained 13 yards - was stripped by Mackey. Allen pounced on the ball, giving the Boilermakers their opportunity.  

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Bell. Another 13-catch performance against Iowa, giving him 26 in two games against a school that heavily recruited him. He made clutch plays after clutch plays, regardless of the situation, keeping drives alive with his acrobatic plays. The Indianapolis native is off to a fast start in this shortened season.  

Mike Carmin covers Purdue sports for the Journal & Courier. Email mcarmin@gannett.com and follow on Twitter @carmin_jc