The Iowa Hawkeyes played arguably their best game of the season, definitely their best since their home win over Missouri State, when they needed to the most today. The result is not only getting to six wins and bowl eligibility, but proving that they belong in the postseason.
In their 38-14 rout of the Purdue Boilermakers, the Hawkeyes ran for 318 yards and finally exorcised their fourth-quarter and red-zone demons that had plagued them all season long. Four of Iowa’s five touchdowns came from inside the Purdue 2o-yard-line and the Hawkeyes outscored the Boilermakers 17-7 in the fourth quarter.
Iowa’s 509 yards of total offense came in a road game that they had to have. If the Hawkeyes had been unable to execute in West Lafayette today against a widely believed to be inferior opponent, their chances of getting a sixth win would have been significantly reduced. Even if Iowa had won one of their last two games, they would have carried the badge of shame of losing to Purdue and been hurt for bowl game considerations by that.
It wasn’t just the impressive offensive display that led to today’s dominant win, but a stellar effort on defense, as well. The Hawkeyes held the Boilermakers to just 53 yards rushing on 28 carries, less than two yards per attempt. Getting this win, with this kind of performance, opens up new possibilities for Iowa.
If the Hawkeyes can win their last two games, they can go from a December bowl game to being part of the New Year’s Day contest conversation. An 8-4 Iowa team featuring a dynamic running game and a stingy defense will be expected to compete with almost anyone in that rung of competition, and the Hawkeyes have a reputation for traveling well regardless of the destination.
For one game at least, almost everything was working for Iowa. While it’s certainly fair to question the level of competition that they faced, today’s game showed what the Hawkeyes are capable of if they execute. They defeated a lesser opponent and did it convincingly. If they can repeat this level of play in their last two games of the season, they could find themselves on a Jan. 1 national stage.