Posted by: marcmwm | November 12, 2008

The Big Analysis

Iowa offense vs. Purdue’s defense

Led by a solid front seven, the Boilermakers’ defense is trying to keep things respectable. The D-line has been active and productive, producing 20 of the team’s 22 sacks. End Ryan Kerrigan leads the way with 6.0 sacks, which is 49th in the nation among interior linemen. Tackle Mike Dean has racked up 5.5 sacks, with DE Alex Magee following with 3.5. Kerrigan led a stellar defensive effort against Ohio State, sacking quarterback Terrelle Pryor two times.

Linebacker Anthony Heygood trails Illinois linebacker Brit Miller for the Big Ten lead in tackles. Heygood has 102 tackles, 21 more than he had last season, including a season-high 14 in last week’s 21-7 loss at Michigan State. He’s the first Boiler to top 100 tackles since 2002. He switched to defense midway through his junior season.

The Boilers’ defense is a statistical anomaly. It’s second-to-last in the Big Ten in total defense, allowing 376.3 yards a game, but it’s also held the conference’s two highest-ranked teams, No. 7 Penn State and No. 10 Ohio State, to 20 and 16 points, respectively. In its last two games, the Purdue defense has allowed just 600 yards offense. Against Michigan State, Purdue allowed just two TDs. Ohio State generated just 222 yards and 56 plays, that was the Boilers’ best defensive effort in 54 games, dating back to a 2004 game against Ball State.

It’s had its moments, but Purdue’s defense has numbers that are definite red flags. The rush defense is 10th in the Big Ten and 90th nationally at 172.8 yards a game, not a good match-up against the Hawkeyes. Also, the Boilers are allowing 26.9 points a game, ninth in the conference and 88th nationally.

“They’re a feisty group. They’re tough, veteran upfront, and they have got a lot of veterans upfront in that line and they are playing well,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said of Brock Spack’s defense. “You’ve heard me say before, you look at Purdue’s overall success, everybody thinks about the offense, rightly so, it’s been excellent, but their defense has been very consistent and very good all the way through.”

For the first time in his young career, Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi overcame turnovers (a fumble and interception led to 10 Penn State points) and punched through with a victory. The punching through was great, but the Hawkeyes can’t live on the edge with the turnovers. Turnovers would be the fuel for any of Purdue’s ideas of upset today.

Check RB Shonn Greene’s fourth quarter touchdown run, a 5-yarder into a mass of humanity on the sideline. He came out of it with either 1) the wind knocked out of him (he bent over) or 2) something with his left wrist, which he seemed to hold after the run. Could be something, could be nothing. After Daniel Murray’s kick, he ran out onto the field just like everyone else. He also did interviews afterward and seemed fine.

Last week was a WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos’ day. The sophomore caught seven passes for 89 yards and a TD. It was exactly the type of performance the Iowa passing game needed out of a receiver not named Andy Brodell.

Iowa’s offensive line left an imprint on last week’s game, in good and bad ways. Greene got off for 117 yards, but the Hawkeyes also gave up three sacks, raising their season total to 23, eighth in the Big Ten.

Advantage: Iowa

Iowa defense vs. Purdue’s offense

Three-plus-year starter Curtis Painter, who’s missed the last two games with a separated shoulder, could return for today’s game. He threw the ball this week and all signs pointed to a return for the third-leading pass in Big Ten history. Painter is in the Big Ten’s career top 10 in six categories, including TD passes (60), completions (925) and yards (10,525).

Painter is close to a return, but red-shirt freshman Justin Siller is the likely starter today. Purdue coach Joe Tiller wants to use both quarterbacks today to give the Hawkeyes’ defense a little something to think about. In Siller’s first career start, he blistered Michigan for 21 of 34 for 266 yards and three TDs. He also rushed for 77 yards and another score. He’s a quarterback who switched to running back and then back to quarterback this fall.

Tiller would favor Painter in two-minute situations, but he also has to be happy with what Siller has shown. He wasn’t productive last week in a 21-7 loss to Michigan State, but the entire Purdue offense was in a “Tiller era low” mode. The Boilers finished with just 191 total yards, the fewest in the Tiller era. It was the fourth game this season Purdue scored seven points or fewer. That’s the most for a single season for the Boilers under Tiller.

Just as last week, the weather might have an influence on today’s game. The forecast called for 30 degrees and possible precipitation.

The Boilers’ O-line might be the most beaten-down unit in the Big Ten. Last week, guard Eric Hedstrom (knee) missed his second game and tackle Sean Sester (knee) missed his third. Garret Miller, a starting tackle, is already is out for the season. Reserve guard Justin Pierce injured his groin last week. That left Purdue with pretty much just five linemen against Michigan State.

Despite a public dust-up over criticism of Painter, running back Kory Sheets remains the Boilers’ most consistent performer on offense. He rushed for 93 yards against MSU and became just the sixth back in Purdue history to rush for more than 1,000 (1,017) in a season. He is Purdue’s career TD leader with 51. He needs one more TD to tie Purdue’s season record of 14.

A massive factor in Iowa’s victory over Penn State was the red zone defense. The Hawkeyes held Penn State to two touchdowns on five trips inside Iowa’s 20-yard line. In a one-point game, those are the hidden points that make or break a victory. Iowa is second and tied for 24th in the country in red zone defense, allowing points just 75 percent of the time.

Defensive tackle Matt Kroul should go into the record books today with his 48th career start, tying OL Bruce Nelson’s record (1999-02). This is the longest active streak in the Big Ten and third-longest by an FBS player. In his career, he has 17 tackles for loss and seven sacks.

Every Hawkeyes starter in the back seven has an interception. With nine Hawkeyes contributing, Iowa’s 17 interceptions, third in the country. This is the most for a Hawkeyes team since the 2004 team came away with 17.

“It’s a blue collar-type defense, in structure anyway,” Tiller said. “You know, they don’t try to beat you with x’s and o’s and try to out scheme you. They are very, very fundamentally sound. And they’re very, very physical. They take a lot of pride on being physical. You know, they’re back to being that type of an Iowa team. They didn’t look quite that way a year ago, but they’re back to looking exactly like the old Iowa to us.”

Advantage: Iowa

Special teams

Purdue punter Chris Summers is 79th in the nation with a 38.7 average. Purdue’s net punting is 118th out of the nation’s 119 FBS schools. This means for every punt, Purdue has only netted a total of 30.04 yards. Freshman kicker Carson Wiggs has hit 5 of 8 field goals this season. His first career boot was a 53-yarder at Ohio State. That’s tied for the eighth-longest in FBS this year and is the longest by a freshman. Senior wide receiver Desmond Tardy is second in the conference in kick returns with a 28.0 average. The Boilers are also 117th in punt coverage, allowing 16.71 a return.

Maybe the biggest or maybe the oddest story out of last week was Ferentz and co-special teams coach Lester Erb’s choice to go with sophomore kicker Daniel Murray over true freshman Trent Mossbrucker on the 31-yard game winner with 6 seconds left on the clock. Murray, who hadn’t attempted a field goal since week 4 at Pittsburgh, jumped in and nailed it. Now, Ferentz is in playing-by-ear mode when it comes to field goals. Mossbrucker never did anything to lose the job, going 13 of 15 before last week. He did miss a 30-yarder at Illinois, a 27-24 loss.

Advantage: Iowa


After 12 years at Purdue, Tiller will coach his final road game today. He has an 86-61 overall record at Purdue — the most wins in school history — and a 52-42 mark in Big Ten games. He has guided Purdue to 10 bowl games in 12 seasons, including the Boilers’ first Rose Bowl berth since 1967 and two other New Year’s Day bowls. But going into his final two games, Tiller is 3-7 and his Boilers have lost six of their last seven games. He’s being asked questions about how difficult the season has been and how frustrated he is.

Call it gutsy, crazy or whatever you want, Kirk Ferentz’s decision to go with Murray over Mossbrucker on the game-winner against Penn State was as stony as it gets. In explaining the decision, Ferentz said you make them and you move on. But . . . “I’m not saying there aren’t moments where you beat yourself up a bit, but you can’t do that for too long, otherwise you know you’re going to have a hard time making decisions, that’s how it worked. I’ve blown my share of calls, that’s for sure. Recently and long-term. You do what you do.”

Advantage: Iowa




  1. Then we better cover based on this analysis, which is spot on.

    Send Wilford Brimly back to WL with another loss.

  2. This seems like the perfect opponent for the Hawks after coming off a huge win.

    The Hawks should be able to keep things very simple: control the lines, avoid mistakes, and they’ll come out with a win.

    Here’s hoping Shonn Greene can have a monster day against that Purdue rush D. A big day on Saturday should put him withing striking distance of Tavian Banks’ single-season Iowa record.

  3. This game has “trap” written all over it. You have a young team coming off it’s biggest win in a couple of years against one of the worst teams in the conference. I hope the Hawks are looking past Purdue to the Gophers.

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