IOWA CITY – Just call them the Spoilermakers.
The perfect start to second-ranked Iowa’s season came to a screeching halt Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
The Hawkeyes had no answer for Purdue’s David Bell or its own lackluster performance in a 24-7 loss to the Boilermakers that forced Iowa to stomach its first loss in seven games this season and halted a 12-game win streak.
“Top to bottom, it was a rough day’’ Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras said. “I need to play a lot better and so do the 10 other guys on the field.’’
Bell torched the Iowa defense for a third straight year – catching 11 passes for 240 yards – and the Hawkeyes never found a flow offensively.
The run game proved problematic, Petras was intercepted a career-high four times and Iowa could not convert even when Purdue provided it with opportunities.
When the Boilermakers fumbled the ball into the end zone while attempting to stretch a 17-7 lead late in the third quarter, a pair of sacks and an incompletion forced Iowa to punt the ball away.
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After Purdue responded with a drive that ended with a 21-yard touchdown reception by Bell to leave the Hawkeyes in a 24-7 hole with 12 minutes, 29 seconds remaining, even a 67-yard kickoff return by Ivory Kelly-Martin couldn’t ignite Iowa.
The Kelly-Martin return set Iowa up at the Boilermakers’ 19-yard line, but the Hawkeyes were unable to gain the needed yard on a fourth-and-1 sneak from the 10 and turned the ball over on downs.
“We had a hard time getting off the field and we couldn’t keep pace offensively. That’s a pretty tough combination,’’ Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
The Hawkeyes most lopsided loss since a 38-14 loss at Wisconsin in 2017 left Iowa players frustrated.
“It’s been a while since we had one like this,’’ center Tyler Linderbaum said. “We’ll see what we can learn from it.’’
Three of the interceptions collected by a Purdue defense which entered the game with a combined two takeaways in its first five games came during the fourth quarter and by then, most of Bell’s damage had been done.
The junior topped 100 receiving yards by the time the Boilermakers took a 14-7 lead into the locker room at the half, riddling the Iowa defense as he had in two previous games against the Hawkeyes.
In three outings against Iowa, Bell has combined to catch 37 passes for 558 yards and five touchdowns.
“We played a lot of different coverages, cover two, cover three and we tried not to cover him one-on-one,’’ Iowa free safety Jack Koerner said. “The one time we ended up one-on-one with him, it didn’t end well. He played a great game and they found the soft spots in the zone.’’
Bell had help.
Purdue used three quarterbacks in the game, but Aidan O’Connell delivered all but three of the 43 passes the Boilermakers attempted in the game.
He completed 30-of-40 passes for 374 of the 377 passing yards Purdue collected and scored the game’s first points on a six-yard touchdown run in the opening quarter.
O’Connell later hit TJ Sheffield with a three-yard touchdown pass to break a 7-7 tie with 19 seconds to go in the first half, giving the Boilermakers a 14-7 advantage they would not relinquish.
“They just kept rolling,’’ Iowa linebacker Seth Benson said. “If we get off the field on third down, if we stuff them better on first and second down and put them behind the sticks, it’s different, but it was third and manageable every time.’’
That allowed Purdue to pile up 463 yards while limiting Iowa to 271, with 80 of those coming in a fourth quarter which saw the Boilermakers end the Hawkeyes’ final three possessions with interceptions as Petras was attempting to make something, anything work at the end of a 17-for-32 game.
Cam Allen picked off a pair of Petras passes, the last in the end zone in the game’s final play, and Dedrick Mackey grabbing the other.
“It’s frustrating. It’s no fun to lose any game but it’s tough when you lose and you know you can play better,’’ Petras said.
Purdue’s defense sacked Petras four times and dropped Iowa for losses on eight plays, contributing to Iowa’s rushing total of 76 yards.
“I didn’t see much other than our return game that looked real good,’’ Ferentz said. “Just like when we’re winning one thing feeds off of the other. Things complement each other. We couldn’t get off the field today. Credit to Purdue, they have a good attack.’’
In moving in front of Sheffield’s touchdown catch, Purdue connected on 6-of-8 passes on the 75-yard drive that answered a game-tying touchdown by the Hawkeyes’ Kelly-Martin.
Scoring his first touchdown in 17 games dating to a 2018 game at Purdue, Kelly-Martin scored on a three-yard carry with 3:20 remaining in the opening half.
A 22-yard pass from Petras to Sam LaPorta followed by a 32-yard run by Tyler Goodson at the start of the 80-yard drive quickly moved Iowa to the Boilermakers’ 25-yard line.
The touchdown run erased the 7-0 lead Purdue had held since O’Connell scored on a six-yard, third-down run at the 3:38 mark in the opening quarter.
Purdue mixed and matched three quarterbacks in the game’s first nine minutes, with Jack Plummer and Austin Burton carrying during a drive which saw O’Connell complete 4-of-5 passes.
“We knew they had three good quarterbacks and what their tendencies were,’’ Benson said. “They just played well.’’