Mood Swing: Hawkeyes Leave With A Win

Jeffrey Becker/USA Today Sports
John Bohnenkamp

IOWA CITY — Ihmir Smith-Marsette called for a fair catch on a kickoff, and Kinnick Stadium turned into a giant cloud of grumble.

Thirty-eight seconds remained on the first-half clock, the lead was two points, and oh, there was frustration.

Then Iowa decided to run one play — a 1-yard run by Mekhi Sargent — and then decided that was it for the half, leaving all three timeouts behind, and headed to the locker room.

Boos. Lots of boos.

Loud boos.

If you’re going to boo, give it a good boo.

Tristan Wirfs understood.

“Fans want to see some action,” the offensive tackle said.

Kirk Ferentz really understood, because he was in his own boil. He wanted action, too, on the Smith-Marsette return-that-wasn’t.

“I was not in a good mood at that point, quite frankly,” the coach said.

Moods change.

Ferentz, of course, laughed about it in the post-game press conference, because Iowa defeated Purdue, 26-20, and it’s funny how a win that snaps a two-game losing skid suddenly makes things look better.

“A win’s a win,” safety Geno Stone said. “We definitely felt we could do better

“But we’ll take it.”

Four Keith Duncan field goals and two rushing touchdowns cooled the temperature around the No. 23 Hawkeyes (5-2 overall, 2-2 Big Ten), who felt the steam after back-to-back losses to Michigan and Penn State.

“We had something to prove,” defensive end A.J. Epenesa said.

And so they did. It wasn’t about style — the Hawkeyes only outgained the Boilermakers (2-5, 1-3) 362-360, and is it ever about style with this team? — but there was some substance to this.

The defense got two takeaways — Stone forced a fumble that Matt Hankins recovered, and Riley Moss had an interception.

Quarterback Nate Stanley threw for 260 yards and was only sacked once. He had the one Iowa turnover — an interception that bounced off running back Tyler Goodson — but made up for it with a bull-ride to take down Purdue cornerback Dedrick Mackey on the return.

Iowa’s running game barely got over 100 yards — it took two Sargent runs of 35 yards, the last one a 14-yarder for a touchdown — but the Hawkeyes did have a time-of-possession edge of more than 11 minutes.

“At some point you just got to find a way to get it done,” Ferentz said. “That's what you have to do. It's not always going to be pretty.”

“It’s definitely a different mood,” Stone said.

The mood, of course, wasn’t kind in the first half. Iowa had 172 yards of offense and got into Purdue territory three times, including a 15-play, 63-yard drive to open the game that took 7:15. That possession, and the other two, ended in Duncan field goals.

Inside the Boilermakers’ 30 seemed like a graveyard.

“You want to get sixes instead of threes,” Wirfs said. “But points are points.”

“It’s always frustrating,” wide receiver Tyrone Tracy Jr., said. “When we get down there, we’re always looking for six points.”

Iowa found a touchdown in the third quarter when Goodson, the freshman, had a 1-yard leap into the end zone for the first score of his career. It took the Hawkeyes three runs to get that one yard, though — Goodson and Stanley were stopped for no gain on back-to-back plays — which was a little disconcerting.

The other touchdown was more like the Hawkeyes from the first four wins of the year. One run by Sargent turned into another that turned into a touchdown.

Iowa then had to survive a late Purdue touchdown — a 1-yard pass from Jack Plummer to Payne Durham on fourth-and-goal with 24 seconds to play — then had to recover the second onside kick from the Boilermakers.

There were cheers after that play, the Stanley knee to close the game, and for the win.

Plummer, a freshman, threw for 327 yards and two touchdowns — wide receiver David Bell had 13 catches for 197 yards. Plummer was sacked once, which frustrated Epenesa.

“We left a lot of sacks out there today,” he said.

What the Hawkeyes didn’t leave out there was a win. They gladly accepted it, no matter how it looked.