IOWA CITY - It was there for the taking.
The chance to end a three-game slide, move one win away from bowl eligibility and cleanse the palette from last weekend's shocking setback at Indiana.
Though dominated on the ground and the through the air the entire day, all those opportunities were still in play for the Hawkeyes with less than a minute to go.
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
Purdue quarterback Robert Marve (9) celebrates with wide receiver Gary Bush (6) following their 10-yard hook-up for a touchdown during the third quarter of Saturday’s Big Ten football game in Iowa City. Purdue defeated Iowa 27-24.
Instead, the Iowa football team (4-6, 2-4) was left to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of another disheartening loss falling 27-24 to Purdue at Kinnick Stadium Saturday.
The Boilermakers (4-6, 1-5), previously winless in Big Ten play and caught in a five-game funk of their own, saved any chances of a bowl berth and perhaps the job of head coach Danny Hope with a 46-yard field goal off the foot of Paul Griggs as time expired.
"Give Purdue credit. They came in and played to win and competed hard enough to win. Clearly we were outcoached and outplayed, particularly in the first half," said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz.
Facing fourth-and-three from Purdue's 35 with 21 seconds remaining, the Hawkeyes elected to keep kicker Mike Meyer - 16 for 19 on field goals for the season - on the sidelines and try their hand with James Vandenberg. The senior quarterback found his target in Zach Derby, but the pass was two yards shy of the first-down marker as the Boilermakers stopped the Hawkeyes in their tracks and Robert Marve took over.
"If we're throwing it short, we think we're going to have a catch and run situation," said Vandenberg, explaining his final pass that was short of the sticks. "We certainly didn't do enough to win in any phase of the game."
Completing 25 of 33 passes for 266 yards and two scores, Marve punctuated his performance by scrambling 17 yards before connecting with Antavian Edison on a 20-yard strike to set the scene for Griggs' season-long field goal and the Boilermakers' first win in Kinnick since 1992.
Though history was against them, Hope wasn't any less confident in his team.
"We knew we were going to win. We knew all week long we were going to win," said Hope.
"There was never any doubt. One of our keys was to never waver our doubt and we certainly did not."
Purdue held hefty advantages over the Hawks both with the run (211-74) and the pass (279-190), but Iowa stayed in the game by recovering three Boilermakers' fumbles and returning the last one for a touchdown. Micah Hyde's scoop and score from nine yards out - the Hawkeyes' first fumble recovery for a touchdown since 2003 - pulled Iowa within 24-21 with 10 seconds left in the third.
Purdue penalties were another crutch for the Hawkeyes as the Boilermakers committed 10 for 100 yards - all in the second half, with a 15-yard personal foul sparking a potential go-ahead drive for Iowa. Reaching first and goal from the six, a rush for no gain and a pair of incompletions forced the Hawks to settle for a 24-yard field goal from Meyers with 3:32 to play.
"We had a great opportunity," said Kevonte Martin-Manley, who dropped a potential touchdown pass before Meyer's 24-yarder.
"I have to fix things personally and we have to fix things as a team as well."
Third-down conversions were another critical facet where the Boilermakers excelled converting 9-of-16 attempts - including a 6-for-9 effort in the first half, while limiting the Hawks to 4-of-16.
"We were terrible on third down. (We had) negative plays on first and second down. We didn't execute a lot of plays that were there," said Vandenberg.
A pair of Purdue fumbles opened the door for Iowa early as the Hawks cashed in on the latter a with a one-yard score from Damon Bullock to tie the game at 7 early in the second. The Boilermakers came into the contest allowing a league-worst 264 yards per game on the ground but limited Bullock to 22 yards on 12 carries and the Hawks to 74 on 31 carries as a whole. Vandenberg kept the drive alive with a two-yard plunge from the Boilermakers' 13 on fourth-and-two.
Shoddy tackling was an issue for the Hawkeyes all afternoon and it came to the forefront on the ensuing Boilermaker drive when Akeem Shavers shedded several would-be tacklers for a 16-yard burst. Shavers rushed for 66 yards and a score on 17 carries complementing a 108-yard effort on 14 carries from Ralph Bolden. Gabe Holmes capped the 11-play, 75-yard trek with a 9-yard touchdown catch to reclaim the lead for Purdue at 14-7 with 4:43 left in the half.
"Missed tackles killed us. That was just the No. 1 thing," said Hyde.
Sam McCartney pulled a 20-yard field goal attempt in the closing seconds of the half, but made up for it with a 36-yarder on the Boilermakers' opening drive of the third. Two 15-yard penalties triggered the Hawks' next drive before Vandenberg connected with C.J. Fiedorowicz on a 5-yard strike pulling Iowa within 17-14.
Purdue needed just two plays on its next scoring drive with a 56-yard scamper from Bolden setting up a 10-yard TD catch for Gary Bush late in the third. Following the Hawks' fifth three-and-out, Marve fumbled on the ensuing drive to set up Hyde's score.
Riding a four-game slide, Iowa must win its final two games to remain bowl-eligible. The Hawkeyes face Michigan (7-3, 5-1) on the road Saturday at 11 a.m. before returning home to battle Nebraska (8-2, 5-1) Nov. 23.
"If you want to compete and if you want to be a part of this (team), then you come back tomorrow really concerned about and interested in what we can do to improve," said Ferentz.
"That's each and every one of us, coaches and players."
Iowa wore specially designed uniforms in honor of Veterans Day ... Micah Hyde led Iowa with 11 tackles, James Morris and Christian Kirksey both made 10 stops ... Hyde's 9-yard fumble recovery for a TD was Iowa's first score on a fumble recovery since Bob Sanders achieved the feat in 2003. ... Iowa has lost four straight home games for the first time since 2000 ... The Hawks have reached a bowl game the last 10 seasons.