Hawkmania football & basketball blog

Four-down territory: Purdue

Four things the Iowa football team can do to put itself in a position to win Saturday at Purdue.

1. Establish the run. After dealing with three of the top five run defenses in the country in its last four games, the Hawkeye offense finds itself dealing with a Purdue defense which allows 211 yards per game on the ground. Translation: There will be room to roam this week and Iowa must take advantage of that, sustain drives and collect yards that have been hard to come by in recent games.

2. Deliver on defense. Purdue has averaged 42.5 rushing yards per game through the first half of its Big Ten schedule. The Hawkeyes have shown the ability to stop the run, although Iowa ranks sixth in the Big Ten after allowing 176.2 yards though its first five conference games. The play of Iowa’s front seven will set a tone.

3. Pressure the passer. Purdue quarterback Danny Etling has been sacked 19 times since moving into the starting role three-plus games ago. Iowa’s pass rush has been improved in recent games, and there is a chance to add to those statistics Saturday.

4. Seize the moment. The Hawkeyes have a chance to erase another bad memory from a year ago this weekend. Purdue added to the frustrations of a 4-8 season in 2012 with a last-second win over Iowa. Saturday, the Hawkeyes have a chance to earn a sixth win and become bowl eligible with a road win. That would be a measure of progress following the struggles of 2012.

Four things Purdue can do to give first-year coach Darrell Hazell his first Big Ten win this weekend against Iowa:

1. Stop the run. Purdue’s defense — challenged by the same collection of Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin which gave Iowa fits — has been porous. Six of the eight teams the Boilermakers have played have topped 170 yards rushing. Three seniors start on the defensive line for Purdue, which shifted to a 3-4 alignment three games ago. Bruce Gaston is the most experienced and has 6.5 tackles for a loss. Three freshmen fill back-up roles but are seeing considerable time.

2. Make plays in the passing game. Offensive coordinator John Shoop has switched Purdue’s offense to a pro-style look, one of the reasons dual-threat Rob Henry is now playing safety after starting four early-season games at quarterback. Freshman Danny Etling has found the yards hard to come by, connecting on just under 47 percent of his pass attempts this season. With a ground game averaging just over 42 yards against Big Ten foes, the Boilermakers need production through the air. Akeem Hunt, the team’s top rusher, is also a capable receiver.

3. Play a field position game. The leg of Cody Webster will impact this game. Just how much remains to be seen, but the Boilermakers’ senior is one of the nation’s elite punters. He leads the Big Ten and ranks 10th nationally with an average of 44.7 yards per punt. In a league-high 49 attempts, Webster has topped 50 yards 13 times and deposited 18 punts inside the 20-yard line.

4. Shorten the game. If Purdue can sustain drives — a big if considering that the Boilermakers haven’t taken a snap inside the red zone since Sept. 28 — a shortened game built on short yard-producing catches and decent production in the run game could send things into the fourth quarter in doubt. If that happens, Purdue could position itself for the upset. If not, it will likely be another long day for the Boilermakers.

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