IOWA CITY, Iowa — Junior Keith Duncan made four field goals and junior Mekhi Sargent’s 14-yard touchdown run with 2:16 remaining was the difference in the 22nd-ranked University of Iowa football team’s 26-20 Homecoming victory over Purdue on Saturday in front of a sellout crowd inside Kinnick Stadium.
The Hawkeyes improve to 5-2 overall, 2-2 in Big Ten Conference play heading into the Oct. 26 game at Northwestern.
Iowa finished with a 362-360 advantage in total yards with 102 coming on the ground. Senior Nate Stanley completed 23-of-33 passes for 260 yards with junior Brandon Smith making a career-high nine receptions for 106 yards.
Sargent key Iowa’s rushing attack, finishing with 68 yards with 32 yards coming on Iowa’s final possession.
Defensively, the Hawkeyes surrendered big plays, but the defense buckled down when it needed to. Iowa forced two turnovers and limited the Boilermakers to field goals on two fourth-quarter possessions in the red zone.
Junior Matt Hankins paced Iowa with 11 tackles, including eight solo stops and one pass breakup, while freshman Dane Belton made six starts in the most extensive action of his career. Junior Geno Stone had a first-quarter forced fumble and finished with six tackles, and sophomore Riley Moss had a third-quarter interception after replacing Hankins at corner back.
Iowa limited Purdue to 33 yards rushing, but freshman Jack Plummer completed 30-of-50 attempts for 327 yards and two touchdowns through the air. Freshman David Bell was a handful, making 13 receptions for 197 yards and a touchdown.
“Typically every Big-Ten game you can count on it being a battle and today was certainly a good illustration of that. I am happy of the level of effort and perseverance that our team showed out there.
“The first half, there was nothing easy about that. In the second half we made some adjustments and did some things better, but the game went right down to the wire. We talked in the past couple weeks about being better, detailed and we’re going to have to continue to work on that. We’ll keep our foot on the gas this week.
“There are a lot of positive things that happened today, too. If you look at our defensive team one of the goals was we had to stop the run. They haven’t relied on that heavily, and we didn’t want to let that get going. Our guys did a good job of that. We got good pressure consistently throughout the game and to come up with a couple takeaways certainly is something that we haven’t done a great job of the last two weeks.
“Offensively to finish out the game the way we did and run the ball when everybody in the stadium knew that was going to happen that was a positive. Our protection was a little bit better out there today and came up were some big plays, one that got negated, but came up with some big plays. On special teams, Michael came up with a couple big punts that impacted the game, the punt returning aspect was a little bit better, keeping the ball off the ground. Keith Duncan couldn’t have done better in those points, every point is big in a conference game. He was really wired in. You don’t get to field two on-side kicks too often, but our guys it a good job on that they looked prepared and came up with the ball.
“Some things we’re going to have to clean up, that’s not going to change. When we don’t give up big plays on defense we tend to be pretty solid, but we did give up a couple today. We’re still working on finding our rhythm better, rhythm offensively, and we’ll continue to press on that. The special teams part, just the consistency. Giving up that one kick return, we scored and they bring it right out to the 38, because somebody’s not where they’re supposed to be. Then kick return, we bring it out a little bit and end up taking a 10-yard penalty, so we end up with the ball on the 10. Those kind of things we have to do a little bit better at. That’s the challenge of football.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
Iowa took the opening drive and scored the game’s first points with a 15-play, 63-yard scoring drive. The big play came with a 25-yard completion to Smith, moving the Hawkeyes to the Purdue 24. Iowa ran four times, including a 3-yard gain on fourth-and-1 on a Stanley sneak, but the drive stalled, forcing the Hawkeyes to settle on Duncan’s 30-yard field goal to make the score 3-0.
The Hawkeyes doubled down on its next possession, moving 56 yards over seven plays to make the score 6-0. Stanley hit Nico Ragaini for a 13-yard gain on first down and two plays later Ihmir Smith-Marsette made a one-handed catch for a 32-yard gain to the Purdue 31. Again the drive stalled after two rushes and an incompletion before Duncan connected from 44 yards out.
Purdue put together a 52-yard drive deep into Iowa territory on its second possession. Bell’s 14-yard catch converted a third-and-13 and Purdue methodically moved into the red zone.
On first-and-10 from the 18, Plummer completed a bubble screen to Amad Anderson for a 9-yard gain, but Geno Stone stripped him and recovered the fumble inside the 10.
After trading punts, Iowa took over at its own 45 before Stanley hit Smith for 15 and 11 yards on consecutive plays to the Purdue 28. On third-and-3 from the 21, Stanley completed a pass to Ragaini for a loss of 3 yards, and Duncan made a 42-yard field goal to make the score 9-0 with 2:14 left in the half.
Purdue needed just 1:36 to cut Iowa’s lead to 9-7. Plummer hit Bell for a 42-yard gain along the Iowa sideline to the Iowa 20 and Bell struck again, making back-to-back receptions, including a 7-yard touchdown catch with 38 seconds left.
Iowa forced the game’s second turnover on the first possession of the second half. Purdue went back to Bell, completing passes of 8, 3, and 17 yards to the Iowa 42. After bringing in Moss to replace Hankins at the left corner, Moss intercepted Plummer and returned it 7 yards to the Iowa 28.
The Hawkeyes capitalized, moving 72 yard over nine plays to make the score 16-7. Stanley opened the drive with a 20-yard completion to Tyler Goodson and hit Smith-Marsette for 17 yards to the Purdue 22. Two plays later Stanley zipped a 21-yard completion to Tyrone Tracy, Jr., to the 1. After two rushes for no gain, Goodson went up-and-over for a 1-yard touchdown — the first of his career.
Iowa pushed its lead to 19-7 with a seven-play, 47-yard drive late in the third quarter. A big play — a 30-yard completion to Smith — moved Iowa to the Purdue 37 and Sargent followed with an 11-yard run to the 26. Purdue’s defense held, forcing Iowa to settle on Duncan’s 38-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Purdue turned an Iowa turnover into three points early in the third quarter when Goodson tipped a Stanley pass on a crossing route and it was intercepted by Dedrick Mackey and returned 27 yards to the Iowa 9.
The Hawkeye defense buckled down. Plummer fumbled the snap on first down and Iowa forced back-to-back incompletions, forcing the Boilermakers into a 27-yard field goal by J.D. Dellinger that made the score 19-10.
The Boilermakers made it a one possession game with a 70-yard drive late in the fourth quarter. Starting at its own 12, Plummer hit Bell for a 54-yard gain on first down and 15-yards were tacked on by a roughing the passer penalty.
On first-and-10 from the 19, Chauncey Golston pressured Plummer on first down before Bell had a 1-yard reception on second down. On third-and-9, Bell made a catch in the end zone, but he was out-of-bounds. Dellinger made a 36-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 19-13 with 2:59 to play.
Purdue elected to attempt an on-side kick, but Ragaini covered it up at midfield and Purdue’s Jackson Anthrop was flagged for a personal foul, giving Iowa starting field position at the Purdue 35. Sargent broke off a 21-yard run on first down before breaking two tackles on an 14-yard touchdown run to make the score 26-13.
Purdue answered with an 11-play, 72-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 26-20. Plummer started the drive with four straight completions of 6, 6, 28, and 11 yards to move the ball into Iowa territory. The Boilermakers moved to the 4 on a 17-yard completion to Bell, but it took four plays with the clock whittling down for Purdue to find the end zone via a 1-yard touchdown pass to Payne Durham with 24 seconds to play.
The Boilermakers’ only hope was to recover an onside kick, but senior Nate Wieting fielded the kick and Iowa assumed victory formation to notch its fifth win of the season.
Junior Brandon Smith set career highs in receptions (9) and receiving yards (106). It is his first career 100-yard receiving game. Smith left the game following his ninth reception with 4:21 left in the fourth quarter and did not return.
Senior Nate Stanley made his 33rd consecutive start, the second longest streak by a Hawkeye quarterback in program history (Long, 47).
Stanley passed for 260 yards, raising his career total to 7,122. He passed Chuck Hartlieb (6,934) for fourth in school history. Stanley totaled 269 yards of offense tonight, raising his career total to 6,989 yards of total offense, fourth all-time. He passed Matt Rodgers (6,855) on Iowa’s all-time list.
Redshirt freshman John Waggoner’s 7-yard sack in the second quarter was his first career tackle.
Freshman Tyler Goodson’s 1-yard touchdown rush in the third quarter was the first touchdown of his career.
Junior Ihmir Smith-Marsette caught 3 passes for 57 yards. He has 991 career receiving yards. He is nine yard shy of becoming the 42nd player in program history to reach 1,000 yards receiving.
Dillon Doyle made his first career start.
Junior Mekhi Sargent’s 14-yard touchdown rush in the fourth quarter ties for Iowa’s longest touchdown rush (Smith-Marsette) of the season. Iowa has nine touchdown rushes this season (2, 2, 1, 4, 1, 14, 1, 1, 14).
Junior Keith Duncan connected on four field goals (30, 44, 42, 38). He is 10-11 on field goal tries of 40-yards or more.
Senior Michael Sleep-Dalton’s 63-yard punt in the fourth quarter was a season-long.
Junior Matt Hankins recovered a fumble in the second quarter, and junior Geno Stone forced the fumble. It is the first career fumble recovery by Hankins, the third career forced fumble for Stone.
Iowa’s defense allowed 33 yards rushing, the lowest total allowed against a Big Ten team since holding Minnesota to 30 yards rushing in 2013. Purdue rushed 18 times, the third-lowest total by any opponent in the Ferentz era.
Iowa improved to 60-43-5 (.567) record in 108 Homecoming games. Iowa has won eight of its last 10 Homecoming games. Iowa is 20-5 on Homecoming since 1995, and 16-4 since 2000, including winning seven in a row from 2000-06. The Hawkeyes are 16-5 in Homecoming contests under Kirk Ferentz.
The Hawkeyes play at Northwestern on Oct. 26. Kickoff is at 11 a.m. (CT). The game will be televised on ESPN or ESPN2.