PURDUE 38, IOWA 36
Purdue kicker Spencer Evans waited impatiently for a second chance.
When the opportunity finally arrived Saturday, he was ready, willing and spot on.
The senior made a 25-yard field goal with 8 seconds left to give Purdue a 38-36 upset over No. 19 Iowa, helping the surging Boilermakers move within one game of becoming bowl-eligible and back into contention for the Big Ten’s West Division crown.
“This is something I’ve pictured over and over again,” Evans said. “I just have to give credit to the guys for putting me in that position. They made it a nice, makeable field goal for me.”
The big finish came exactly one week after Evans endured a nightmare at Michigan State.
He missed a 57-yarder at the end of the first half following a 5-yard penalty against the Boilermakers and had a 41-yard attempt to tie the game blocked late in the fourth quarter.
This time, Evans and the field goal unit were virtually flawless after quarterback David Blough marched the Boilermakers 43 yards and put the ball on the left hash mark for the decisive field goal.
Blough was 23 of 32 with 333 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions while hooking up with Terry Wright for three scores.
But it was Evans’ kick that gave Purdue (6-2, 4-2) its third win over a ranked opponent this season, the first time the Boilermakers achieved that feat in 15 years, and within one game of division-leading Northwestern.
“Great job by our field goal unit of protecting and great job by Spencer kicking it right dead middle,” coach Jeff Brohm said.
Nate Stanley threw for 275 yards with one TD and ran for another score but it was Iowa’s vaunted defense that let down the Hawkeyes.
It was burned repeatedly for big plays and couldn’t come up with one last stop after Purdue took over at the 50-yard line with 4:30 to play.
“That was a really tough, tough loss for us to go through,” Ferentz said. “I think our team played extremely hard right to the finish. Not sure what more (the players) could have done.”
Still, the defense gave the Hawkeyes a fighting chance.
Trailing 35-23 after Wright’s final score, a 3-yard TD catch, Mekhi Sargent scored on a 1-yard run to make it 35-30. Amani Hooker picked off Blough on the next offensive play and had a touchdown return called back because of holding.
Sargent wound up scoring on a 1-yard plunge a few minutes later to make it 36-30 with 10:19 to play after Iowa’s second 2-point conversion failed.
But the Boilermakers took advantage of a 31-yard punt by methodically moving down the field, positioning Evans for the kick he and his coach had been dreaming about.
“We had a kick blocked the last game that hurt us,” Brohm said. “We found a way to make this one.”
After watching their playoff aspirations vanish with last week’s loss at Penn State, the Hawkeyes’ Big Ten title hopes have now likely faded away, too.
The Boilermakers are 3-1 against ranked teams this season, but there’s plenty still at stake with two winnable road games and a home date against Wisconsin left on the schedule.
NOTRE DAME 31, NORTHWESTERN 21
Ian Book threw for threw two touchdown passes and ran 23 yards for a score in the closing minutes to lead No. 3 Notre Dame to a 31-21 victory over Northwestern on Saturday night.
The Fighting Irish (9-0, No. 4 CFP) remained in line for a playoff spot and continued to build on their best start since the 2012 team went undefeated before losing to Alabama in the BCS championship game. The Wildcats (5-4) had won four in a row to grab the Big Ten West lead and they stayed in this one when it looked like Notre Dame was ready to pull away.
Book threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to a leaping Miles Boykin in the corner of the end zone and a 47-yarder to Michael Young in the third to give the Irish a 21-7 lead. He sealed it in the closing minutes when he turned up the left side for that 23-yard run.
But things sure got close prior to that run.
It was 24-7 early in the fourth when Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson threw a 27-yard touchdown to Riley Lees. Cameron Ruiz then blocked a punt by Tyler Newsome, giving the Wildcats possession on the Notre Dame 17. That led to a 1-yard sneak by Thorson, cutting it to 24-21 with 7:05 left.
Book improved to 6-0 as the starter, going 22 of 34 for 343 yards. Chase Claypool had eight receptions for 130 yards, and Dexter Williams ran for a 1-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
Northwestern is 0-3 in nonconference games. The Wildcats haven’t beaten a top-five opponent since 1959, when Ara Parseghian was their coach.
Thorson was 16 of 29 for 141 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for two TDs. Isaiah Bowser added 93 yards rushing on 23 attempts after back-to-back 100-yard games.
Both teams missed some big scoring opportunities in the first half. The Irish were also hurt by penalties.
Northwestern blew a big chance after linebacker Blake Gallagher recovered a fumble by Book on the game’s opening possession. The Wildcats took over at the Notre Dame 35, only to come away empty-handed when Charlie Kuhbander missed a 39-yard field goal wide right.
The Irish then went 79 yards, with Williams plowing in from the 1 to give them a 7-0 lead and delight the fans in blue and gold. But they also missed a big chance late in the quarter. Two penalties helped drive them back from the Northwestern 5 to the 27 before Justin Yoon’s 44-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left.
Northwestern tied it midway through the second quarter when Thorson scored from the 1. Bennett Skowronek kept the drive going with a one-handed grab on fourth-and-5 at the Notre Dame 21, and the Irish’s Jalen Elliott got flagged for interference breaking up a pass intended for Cameron Green in the end zone.