Purdue's season has been a near-total disaster to this point. But the Boilermakers still have a chance to get back to a bowl for a second straight season.
For a team that had lost all five Big Ten games, most of them by healthy margins, and had a coach on the hot seat, the Boilers played with a lot of heart and grit today on the road against Iowa. Not always great execution, but great effort.
And that was -- just barely -- enough. Paul Griggs drilled a season-long 46-yard field goal as time expired for the 27-24 win. That improved Purdue to 4-6, with games remaining at Illinois and at home against Indiana. Both are very winnable, which means the Boilers could qualify for a bowl. The question is: Would that be enough to save Danny Hope's job? (A more easily answerable question: aren't there too many bowls if this Purdue team makes one?)
Purdue outplayed Iowa in most facets, but lost three fumbles, one of which was scooped up by Micah Hyde for a touchdown. And the Boilers bungled an easy scoring chance at the end of the first half. They outgained Iowa 490-264 but still needed some late-game heroics from Robert Marve to get in position for the winning kick.
Iowa was dominated on the line of scrimmage by Purdue's defense, which got a big game from Kawann Short. The Hawkeyes mustered just 74 rushing yards on 31 carries and couldn't get into the end zone late when they had a chance to go in for the go-ahead score. Kirk Ferentz decided to go for it on 4th and 3 from the Purdue 35 in the final minute, but an Iowa speciality -- a pass short of the first-down sticks -- resulted in a turnover on downs. Marve then ran for 17 yards and threw a 20-yard pass to Antavian Edison to set up the winning kick.
This is an embarrassing home loss for Ferentz and Iowa, which has now lost four straight and will need to win out at Michigan and against Nebraska to reach bowl eligibility. That's almost for sure not happening. Fans will question Ferentz's decision to go for it on fourth down, but the bigger problem remains a complete ineptitude on offense and, especially on Saturday, poor tackling by the defense.
Purdue can relate to season-long problems. But on this day, at least, the Boilers can celebrate a big victory, and think about the very real possibility of still making it to a bowl.