Iowa and Purdue take the field today knowing it is either execute or be executed.
Iowa (4-5, 2-3) is riding a three-game losing streak and is in danger of not being bowl-eligible for the first time since 2000.
Purdue (3-6, 0-5) is even further adrift, having failed to get a Big Ten win yet despite coming into the season as a sleeper pick to win the Leaders Division.
And the malady for the teams is simple.
“Personnel and execution, typically,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It’s probably about as simple as that.”
Execution. It is what Purdue coach Danny Hope — in real danger of being fired if he doesn’t win out — sees is lacking with the Boilermakers, too.
“We came out with a lot of energy and were fired up to play,” Hope said after the 34-9 loss to Penn State last Saturday. “We just weren’t able to execute and play well and that’s been typical of big ball games lately.”
So which team gets their stuff together today?
The Hawkeyes are playing at home but have to fix a raggedy defense that is giving up 470 yards per game over the last three games against uptempo offenses.
“Sometimes you can’t always get aligned right, or always get the calls,” junior linebacker Christian Kirksey said of the uptempo offenses of Penn State, Northwestern and Indiana. “Sometimes it has you thinking a lot. I wouldn’t say difficult, but giving us a challenge.”
Ferentz doesn’t expect the Boilermakers to copy that uptempo style. It isn’t something Purdue typically has hung its hat on under Hope.
That works OK for Kirksey.
“Traditional may be better,” he said. “More time to get settled in and aligned right.”
The Hawkeye defense was giving up just 317.2 yards per game over the first six games. Again, they have given up 470.0 per game since.
“The common denominator is they’re really fast. That does affect you. That’s why people do it,” Ferentz said. “I always tend to focus on execution and things that we can do better.”
Purdue’s offense isn’t going to be mistaken for Oregon, but they do average 28.4 points per game. They will trot out senior quarterbacks Robert Marve and Caleb TerBush, not necessarily in that order. The pair have 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions between them.
Antavian Eidson leads Purdue with 47 catches for 525 yards and seven touchdowns. Akeem Shavers has 489 rushing yards but Akeem Hunt and Brandon Cottom each have an 80-plus yard touchdown run.
“They do a variety of different things,” Iowa junior cornerback B.J. Lowery said. “They’ve got a lot of skill guys that are fast. That’s what caught my eye.”
On the flip side, the Purdue defense is paced by a pair of veteran defensive tackles — Kawann Short and Bruce Gaston — and a pair of experienced cornerbacks — Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson.
Experienced defensive tackles helped make a mess of things for the Iowa offense last week in Bloomington.
“I think its trust; trust in technique and fundamentals,” Iowa senior center James Ferentz said. “I think its more of a mental thing right now. Look at Austin (Blythe), Jordan (Walsh), even Nolan (MacMillan). They are big, physical athletic guys.
“I have confidence they are going to take what happened Saturday and learn from it.”
Despite the losing streak, the Boilermakers have been dangerous at times this season.
Purdue lost 20-17 to No. 4 Notre Dame early in the season and fell 29-22 in overtime to No. 5 Ohio State on Oct. 20 in Columbus, Ohio
“(Purdue) played with confidence and didn’t make errors that keep you from winning,” Coach Ferentz said in regards to the loss to the Buckeyes. “They … just couldn’t quite finish the game.”
Can Hope bring a little excitement to his players? They finish with a trip to Illinois and at home against Indiana, so winning out isn’t an unrealistic hope.
“Obviously the fans have reason to be disappointed,” Hope said. “We’re very, very disappointed.”
Iowa needs to win, too, to give the fan base something to root for the final two weeks. The Hawkeyes have been bowl-eligible the past 11 seasons under Ferentz.
“I am optimistic,” Ferentz said. “We are going to continue to work hard. That is what we have tried to do for 13-plus years.”
Work hard … and execute.
“We’ve got to find more ways to make plays,” senior quarterback James Vandenberg said. “It comes down to execution.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football