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Iowa Purdue Football

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley throws a pass as Purdue linebacker Derrick Barnes leaps to defend against it during in the first half of the Hawkeyes' loss Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium.

Five things to think about following the Iowa football team's 38-36 loss Saturday at Purdue:

1. The good

Nate Stanley's resiliency in Saturday's loss illustrates why Nate Stanley is Iowa's quarterback.

He brings a level of needed fight to the position that gave the Hawkeyes a chance on a day at Ross-Ade Stadium when it seemed like it was an uphill battle almost from the start.

Like his teammates, Stanley endured his share of highs and lows and even while dealing with a taped-up sprained right thumb he didn't want to talk about he continued to fight.

After missing on seven of his eight pass attempts in a first-half stretch, he rebounded to connect on 16 of his final 19 tries in the game.

It was a good recovery from a struggle-filled outing at Penn State, an interception-free 21-of-32 performance for 275 yards and one touchdown.

Iowa's line gave him a chance, surrendering just one sack, and he even collected the first rushing touchdown of his college career on a 1-yard carry late in the first half.

He didn't achieve what all quarterbacks want to be judged on, the win, but coming off of the problems at Penn State it was the type of game Stanley needed and the type of game the Hawkeyes needed to see from their leader.

2. The bad

Even before the sellout crowd of 60,716 settled into its seats Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium, everybody knew that Purdue's David Blough had an arm and had plenty of willing and capable receivers at his disposal.

Doing something to slow him and the Boilermakers proved to be too much for the Hawkeyes to handle.

It didn't take long for Blough to send a hint that it was going to be a long day for Iowa.

The ease in how Purdue moved the ball against Iowa during 74- and 75-yard touchdown drives on its first two possessions only signified signs of the trouble that lurked throughout a sunny fall day in West Lafayette.

Purdue piled up 434 yards, the most allowed this season by the Hawkeyes, and the 333 passing yards were the most collected by an opposing quarterback against Iowa since Iowa State's Jacob Park went off for 347 against the Hawkeyes in last season's 44-41 overtime Cy-Hawk showdown.

Senior Jake Gervase suggested Iowa's defense didn't seem ready. Blough made the Hawkeyes look that way.

3. The ugly

Noah Fant had the right idea when he suggested that the easiest way not to let official's calls play a major role in determining the outcome of a game is to not end up in a situation where that can happen.

Iowa collected its first two holding calls of the day in the final five minutes of the game, preceding a pass interference flag in the end zone on Julius Brents that set up the Boilermakers' game-winning field goal.

The timing of the calls and the ultimate outcome of the game prompted some rare criticism of officials from coach Kirk Ferentz during the postgame.

He started with the suggestion that Iowa receivers were being held.

"A year ago, our receivers couldn't get open against a junior high team and today we had a pretty hard time. I think we have pretty good receivers,'' Ferentz said.

He went on to discuss the quickly-thrown flag on Brents when he was tangled up with the Boilermakers' Isaac Zico.

"Just looking at the replay -- I didn't have a good angle -- it looked like a clean play to me. It looked like a ball overthrown,'' Ferentz said. "I don't mind telling you that's a little frustrating for everybody, but there are a million plays in a game that can influence an outcome.''

4. The math

Bad math came back to bite Iowa Saturday.

A couple of PAT kicks instead of two unsuccessful two-point conversion attempts could have provided the Hawkeyes with a three-point margin and left Purdue playing for either a tie or a win in the final seconds of play.

Instead, Iowa had a 36-35 lead and the Boilermakers made the Hawkeyes pay for their earlier decisions.

In a game that had the look and feel of a shootout from the start, the Hawkeyes were down by double digits early in the third quarter and coach Ferentz went for the points.

It went for the points instead of a field goal when T.J. Hockenson scored on a fourth-and-2 play from the Purdue 4-yard line to pull Iowa within 28-23 with 9 minutes, 33 seconds left in the third quarter.

That aggressive approach didn't work on the PAT tries, but was part of the Hawkeyes' objective against Purdue's potent offense.

"Ohio State settled for field goals a couple of times here and there and it cost them,'' center Keegan Render said. "We knew they could score by the bunch. We knew we were going to have to do that, too.''

5. The aftermath

Reality suggests Iowa's chances of earning the West Division title in the Big Ten ended when Spencer Evans kicked a 25-yard game-winning field goal Saturday for Purdue.

Mathematicians suggest that the Hawkeyes aren't totally out of the Big Ten championship game picture, but the road to Indianapolis is a very narrow one filled with all sorts of twists and turns.

Now two games behind a division-leading Northwestern team Iowa hosts Saturday and one game back of Wisconsin and Purdue teams the Hawkeyes don't hold the tiebreaker against, Iowa must first win its final three regular-season games and even that won't be enough.

First, the Wildcats must lose to either Minnesota or Illinois in addition to Iowa. If Northwestern wins two its last three games, it will play in Indianapolis.

If the Wildcats open the door, then multiple losses by the Badgers and Boilermakers are a requirement.

After letting a game it led in the final minute slip away for the second time this season, Iowa players weren't interested in any of that following Saturday's setback.

This one stung. There was visual and vocal frustration.

"We've got to find a way to win at home next week, first and foremost,'' Ferentz said.

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