Purdue squandered a chance to become bowl eligible, Saturday, with a 31-21 loss at home to Iowa.
Despite a myriad of mistakes, the Boilermakers hung around until the fourth quarter when the Hawkeyes finally put the hammer down.
On the first play of the final frame, James Vandenberg connected with Marvin McNutt on a 51-yard touchdown pass. McNutt juggled the ball, broke a tackle, and out ran the Purdue defense for his second score of the game.
The play put Iowa ahead 31-14 and secured the win.
“It was very tough to get into a groove on how to guard [McNutt],” said Purdue cornerback Josh Johnson. “Sometimes we were in man, so we got a little bit behind him and he just made great catches. He did what he does best. He’s a great athlete and he got the ball in his hands and made something happen.”
McNutt finished the day with nine catches for 151 yards and the two touchdowns.
Iowa used a balance offensive attack. Marcus Coker ran for 139-yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. Vandenberg went 22-32 for 273-yards and three scores. He found McNutt twice and connected with C.J. Fiedorowicz on a five yard touchdown in the first quarter.
A week after playing probably their most complete game of the season in an upset win over Ohio State, Purdue looked sloppy.
“Just poor execution,” said wide receiver Antavian Edison. “We go and watch film and look at what were the mistakes, ball security or whatever it was, and correct it.”
Edison was one of the bright spots for Purdue with nine catches for 97-yards. He now has a reception in 19-straight games.
But, the Boilers turned the ball over four times and had a punt blocked. Iowa scored off only one of those miscues but, the mistakes hurt Purdue’s offensive rhythm and forced the defense to stay on the field for extended amounts of time.
“I thought we came out a little slower today and Iowa came out running it and doing whatever they can,“ said Purdue cornerback Ricardo Allen. “It kind of put us back.”
However, Iowa wasted scoring chances, as well. Mika’il McCall fumbled inside the Boilermakers ten yard line and Purdue forced Vandenberg to fumble in the end zone, which Brandon Taylor recovered for a touchdown.
The Boilers made it 31-21 on a Ralph Bolden eleven-yard score with 11:58 to play, but couldn’t get any closer.
“I thought we hung in there the whole game,” said Purdue head coach Danny Hope. “I was proud that our defense went out there and made some plays when they had to, just disappointed we didn’t get it done well enough, consistent enough, or early enough in the game to put ourselves in a position to win.”
Robert Marve threw two interceptions that ended promising drives for Purdue. One was picked off at the Iowa one yard line and the other was tipped and caught by Tanner Miller at the Iowa 29.
Marve also fumbled diving into the end zone with about a minute-and-a-half to play that would have brought Purdue within three. The play was overturned after initially being ruled a touchdown. The officials said Marve lost control of the ball before he hit the pylon and called it a touchback for Iowa.
“I thought there were only two options on that play, personally, I thought it was going to be a touchdown or first and goal,” said Hope. “I thought the ball hit the pylon, but I guess the review officials saw something different.”
The loss means the Boilermakers need to win their final game on the road against their rival Indiana to qualify for a bowl. If they are able to do so, it’ll be Purdue’s first postseason appearance under Hope.
“We can still have a successful season,” said Hope. “That’s what we are here for, so we have a lot to look forward to and lot to be excited about and lot to work for, no question about it.”
Iowa closes out its regular season at Nebraska.