IOWA CITY, Iowa – Aidan O’Connell threw for 374 yards and accounted for three touchdowns, David Bell had a career-best 240 yards receiving, and Purdue continued its recent mastery over No. 2 Iowa with a 24-7 upset Saturday.
The Boilermakers (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) have won four of their last five games against the Hawkeyes (6-1, 3-1). The loss ended Iowa’s 12-game winning streak.
Purdue beat its highest ranked opponent on the road since a victory at No. 2 Notre Dame in 1974. It was the second time in four seasons Purdue has knocked off a No. 2-ranked team. The Boilermakers won at home against second-ranked Ohio State in 2018.
“Basically they outdid us in every category,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “The bottom line is we didn't get it done.”
O’Connell was 30 of 40 passing with two touchdowns, and he also ran for a score. He got the most work on a day when Purdue used backup quarterbacks Jack Plummer and Austin Burton in select situations. All three were in on different plays during the Boilermakers’ first-quarter drive that ended with O’Connell’s 6-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead.
“It was just so fun,” O’Connell said, comparing the quarterback shuffle to line changes in hockey.
O’Connell threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to TJ Sheffield in the final minute of the first half to give Purdue a 14-7 halftime lead. He threw a 21-yard TD pass to Bell in the fourth quarter.
“Sometimes when you try to use some creativity, it works,” Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said of the quarterback changes. “Sometimes it looks (bad). We took some chances with it, and fortunately today it worked.”
Bell had 11 receptions. He has a combined 37 catches for 558 yards and five touchdowns against Iowa in three seasons.
“I think the reason he’s been able to exploit them is he’s one of the best receivers in the country,” Brohm said.
O'Connell said the quiet Bell is “so destructive of a player for a defense.”
Bell didn't know how many yards he had until he heard it from his mother after the game.
“It was definitely nice hearing it from her,” said Bell, who set a stadium record with his receiving yards.
Iowa's offense was ineffective against Purdue, which came in third in the Big Ten in total defense and scoring defense. The Hawkeyes’ only score was a 3-yard touchdown run by Ivory Kelly-Martin in the second quarter, and Iowa had just 271 yards of offense.
“They made it tough on us,” Petras said.
Iowa scored its fewest points at home since a 13-7 loss to Nebraska in 2012. The 17-point margin was Iowa's largest in a home loss since Wisconsin won 28-9 at Kinnick Stadium in 2013.
The Hawkeyes’ defense, which came in leading the nation with 20 takeaways and a plus-15 turnover margin, only had one takeaway. That came in the third quarter when Sheffield, trying to dive for the end zone, had the ball slip out of his hand, hit the pylon and go out of bounds for a touchback.
Purdue intercepted Petras four times, the most thrown in a game by Iowa in 12 years.
“It’s no fun losing,” Petras said. “Credit to Purdue, they played well. We didn’t do enough. It’s definitely no fun.”
Though the loss was a major hit to Iowa's hopes of making the College Football Playoff, the Hawks still hold a half-game lead over Minnesota and Purdue in the Big Ten West.
“Our goals are all in front of us at this point,” Petras said. “One thing we can't do is be undefeated, but everything else is out there for our taking. We've done a lot of good the first seven weeks, a lot of bad, most of that today. We have to regroup.”
Iowa trailed 7-0 after the first quarter. The Hawkeyes have been outscored 41-29 in first quarters this season, including 28-6 in the last three games.
The Hawkeyes, who had their highest ranking since 1985 after last week's 23-20 win over Penn State, should take a big fall in the rankings this week. Iowa has been in the top 10 since the second week of the season. “It would be great to be sitting here 7-0, but that's not the reality,” Ferentz said.
It was an uncharacteristic performance by Iowa's defense, which gave up its most passing yards since 2016 and most total yards at home since 2012. Now the Hawkeyes face back-to-back road games against Wisconsin and Northwestern. Iowa has lost seven of its last nine games to Wisconsin and four of its last five to Northwestern. “It's the first time we've had to deal with a loss in a while,” Ferentz said.
Purdue's offense showed some life. The Boilermakers had scored 13 points in each of its last three games, and Bell's 240 receiving yards were second-most by a Bowl Subdivision player this season.
Purdue: Hosts Wisconsin on Oct. 23.
Iowa: Visits Wisconsin on Oct. 30.