IOWA CITY, Iowa – The undefeated Hawkeyes will take the field on Saturday against Purdue looking to solidify a spot in the Big Ten Championship game.
No. 5 Iowa (10-0, 6-0) is coming off a high scoring, back-and-forth victory against rival Minnesota to set a school record with their 10-0 start. Running back LeShun Daniels finished with 26 carries for 195 yards and three touchdowns in front of a sold-out, raucous crowd at Kinnick Stadium.
“Saturday was an unbelievable crowd and a tremendous atmosphere,” Head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I've been here a long time and I'm not sure we've had a better atmosphere than that in Kinnick, so I just want to express my appreciation to the fans. Since the game, heard a lot of comments immediately afterwards through the next couple days afterwards. A lot of people were cognizant of that, and it was a lot of fun to be a part of that.”
Iowa hosts the Boilermakers (2-8, 1-5) on Senior Day with a lot on the line. Winning the Big Ten West in the team’s final home game of the season would be a dream scenario for the team. Purdue is the clear underdog in this matchup, but they have beaten Nebraska this year and are coming off a solid effort against No. 20 Northwestern, albeit in a 21-14 losing effort.
“Looking forward to Saturday against Purdue,” Ferentz said. “I think the biggest thing with them is that they've settled in a with a young quarterback who's a very good player. He's doing a good job, and I think you can see their team growing under his leadership. And if you look back, just last week, they played a heck of a football game against a very good Northwestern team on the road last Saturday. And you go back a couple weeks ago, they had a good victory over Nebraska.”
The overwhelming advantage that the Hawkeyes have in this matchup, which could set the record for coldest game ever at Kinnick Stadium at kickoff, is the running game. The Hawkeyes are second in the conference in both rushing touchdowns and rushing yards. Purdue struggles mildly stopping the ground game and has allowed the most rushing yards in the Big Ten.
“(Daniels) has really done a good job,” Ferentz said. “He's a good football player and a great kid. The way things unfolded maybe we can get to the point where we'll have them all at once. But Jordan (Canzeri) has really done a great job, Akrum (Wadley) did a great job when he was called upon and if he's healthy we're confident that he can play well, and then Derrick Mitchell has done a really good job as our 3rd down back, not just touching the football but blocking also.”
The Hawkeyes have enjoyed resounding success this season and hope to continue their resilient story in the final home game for the seniors. Whether it is key senior players, or seniors who haven’t played much throughout their collegiate career, each has contributed in their own unique way to the Hawkeye program over the years.
“Going out with a win on Senior Day would be the best thing that could happen,” senior kicker Marshall Koehn said. “With where we are right now, we’re just trying to take one game at a time. We still have (important) games left because we put ourselves in that position.”
There have been many reasons for this team’s unexpected resurgence, but quarterback C.J. Beathard pointed to one specific area where the Hawkeyes have seen perhaps the biggest improvement.
“We didn’t have much leadership last year and a big part of being successful is having leaders and guys that step up and lead the young guys,” Beathard said. “We have guys that aren’t selfish this year, we may have had guys doing their own thing last year. It’s a unit group (this year) and we are a team. We’re all in it together and we have guys (where) it doesn’t matter if they’re stats are good. All that matters is if we win the game.”
Keith Murphy: Iowa
John Sears: Iowa
Michael Admire: Iowa
Andy Fales: Iowa
Time: 11 a.m.
Location: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, Iowa
Television: ESPN 2
All-Time Series Record: Iowa 36-46-3 against Purdue