091419-qct-spt-iowa-isu football-040

Iowa defensive backs D.J. Johnson, Geno Stone and Matt Hankins celebrate the win over Iowa State earlier this season. The Hawkeyes expect to get tested in the secondary Saturday by Purdue's aerial attack.

IOWA CITY — The veterans on the back end of the Iowa defense understand.

Michael Ojemudia and Geno Stone have been through it before, dealing with the football version of a "shots fired" call from a pass-first, pass-last Purdue offense.

"They’re not afraid to just air it out," Ojemudia said.

Stone agreed.

"They’re going to take a lot of shots, a lot of deep shots, and just keep firing them at us," he said.

And in some respects, the Hawkeyes don’t mind that as they prepare for Saturday’s 11 a.m. game at Kinnick Stadium.

"The last couple of games, we haven’t seen teams that throw it deep the way Purdue does," Ojemudia said. "It’s a different look, and it should be a chance for us to get some balls. We haven’t been turning teams over like we know we can. This game, there should be some opportunities out there for us to go get."

Over the past two-plus seasons, no team in the Football Bowl Subdivision has intercepted more than the 45 passes Iowa has picked off since the opening game in 2017.

However, only four of those interceptions have come this season and just one has come in the Hawkeyes’ last four games, a pick by Stone at Michigan.

"Takeaways are kind of like big plays on offense," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "You can try to scheme big plays, but for the most part they’re just a result of playing well, good execution, aggressive play."

Stone, who shared the Iowa team lead with four interceptions last season, feels like the Hawkeyes are due for a game-changing kind of performance in the secondary.

"Overdue," he said. "We are anxious to go up against a team that puts the ball in the air the way they do."

Purdue brings the Big Ten’s most prolific passing attack into Kinnick Stadium, averaging 324.5 yards per game through the air.

The loss of starting quarterback Elijah Sindelar and top receiver Rondale Moore to injuries have done little to slow the Boilermakers down.

Sindelar’s replacement, 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman Jack Plummer, completed 33-of-41 passes last weekend in his second start. He passed for 420 yards and three touchdowns in a 40-14 rout of Maryland.

Register for more free articles
Stay logged in to skip the surveys

The absence of Moore, questionable for the Iowa game because of a hamstring injury that has kept him out of the Boilermakers’ last two contests, has created opportunities for others.

True freshman David Bell, a player the Hawkeyes aggressively recruited, was named the Big Ten freshman of the week Monday after catching nine passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns.

His efforts deep spread out the Terrapins’ defense, providing room for tight end Brycen Hopkins to run after catching 10 passes for 140 yards, covering ground on shorter routes.

Their work helps Purdue overcome season-long issues on the ground, where the Boilermakers’ rushing attack ranks as the Big Ten’s worst at 63.5 yards per game.

"They can’t really run the ball, so we know what they’ll do with it," Ojemudia said. "They’ll air it out. There will be a lot of 50-50 balls to get a pass interference or they might catch it. It’s the idea, ‘We’re just going to throw it until our chances are good.'"

That’s nothing new for Purdue.

Ojemudia and Manny Rugamba were ultimately replaced at a cornerback spot two years ago as Sindelar found a mismatch and connected with Anthony Mahoungou seven times for 135 yards, primarily in the second half.

Matt Hankins was brought into the game and effectively dealt with Mahoungou as Purdue erased a 9-7 halftime deficit and pulled away to a 24-15 victory at Kinnick Stadium.

Last season with Ojemudia and Hankins nursing injuries, freshmen Julius Brents and Riley Moss felt the persistent pain of dealing with David Blough, who threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns to position the Boilermakers to win a 38-36 game decided on a field goal in the final seconds.

"They did last year to us what they do," Stone said. "We knew how they would attack us. They’ll try to do the same things again this year."

Knowing that and dealing with that can be two completely different things.

"You have to be smart about it, be in the right position and play the game the right way," Ojemudia said. "If you don’t, you’ll get burned."

But after the previous two weeks, the Hawkeyes are ready for an opponent with a passing preference.

"This is one of those weeks that there will be a bunch of opportunities to get takeaways," Stone said. "It’s a week you look forward to because the possibilities … they’re there."

Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.