IOWA CITY — Some good, some bad and somewhat of a chance to get back into the Big Ten West race, Saturday proved to be just another day at the office for the Iowa football team.
Five things to think about as the now 20th-ranked Hawkeyes move on from Purdue and work toward Saturday's 11 a.m. game at Northwestern:
1. The good
Consider the work of the Iowa defense to be a better-than-average performance against Purdue, among the reasons the Hawkeyes were in a position to move to 5-2 on the season.
In limiting the Boilermakers to a paltry 33 rushing yards — the fewest allowed by the Hawkeyes against a Big Ten opponent since holding Minnesota to 30 in 2013 — and giving up 327 passing yards, Iowa held Purdue below its season averages in both areas.
The arm of Jack Plummer and the skill of receivers David Bell and Brycen Hopkins provided a test that Iowa passed, helped by recovering a fumble inside the Iowa 10-yard line and intercepting a pass inside the Iowa 30.
Those takeaways and the ability of the defense to limit Purdue to a J.D. Dellinger field goal after Dedrick Mackey returned a Nate Stanley interception to the Iowa 9-yard line in the fourth quarter prevented things from turning in a very different direction Saturday at rain-soaked Kinnick Stadium.
2. The consistently good
Never take for granted the work senior snapper Jackson Subbert, senior holder Colten Rastetter and junior kicker Keith Duncan or the teammates protecting them.
Iowa's field goal and extra-point team has been as consistent as it gets in the Big Ten this season and the four field goals Duncan knocked through the uprights against both Iowa State and Purdue are the reason the Hawkeyes are 5-2 at the moment.
Duncan insists he isn't a stats guy — one rep at a time — but the numbers paint a picture of difference-making consistency.
He has hit 17 of 19 field goal tries this season, six more makes than any other team in the Big Ten this season. His 89.5-percent conversion rate is topped only by Indiana's 10-for-10 start to the season.
Duncan is also perfect in 16 PAT tries, making Iowa one of nine Big Ten teams to hit every PAT attempt it has tried.
That adds up to 67 points, making Duncan second in the Big Ten in scoring to only the 114 points Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor has accumulated.
3. The one step forward
Iowa used three different line combinations during its first three offensive drives Saturday, reflecting of the work in progress that is the front five.
Collectively, the group took a small step forward as Stanley spent more time running the offense as opposed to running for his life.
The offensive line still has a ways to go. The 102 rushing yards Iowa accumulated illustrates that, but the group provided better protection, surrendered just one sack and gave the Hawkeyes a chance to throw for 260 yards.
The connections Stanley had with Brandon Smith before he left the game in the fourth quarter what what coach Kirk Ferentz said is believed to be a bone bruise in his lower right leg are noteworthy.
Smith's career-high nine receptions for 106 yards were the most catches by an Iowa receiver since Nick Easley grabbed 10 passes for 103 yards 17 games ago in the Hawkeyes' 38-14 win over Northern Iowa in 2018.
4. The bad
Iowa did find some traction on the ground late in the game, but the 3.1 yards the Hawkeyes averaged per carry against a Purdue defense which had been surrendering 4.6 yards per attempt isn't going to win a lot of games in the Big Ten.
The Hawkeyes rushed ball 33 times for 102 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown run by Tyler Goodson in the third quarter and an 14-yard scoring carry by Mekhi Sargent with 2 minutes, 16 seconds remaining that proved to be the difference in the game.
Goodson's touchdown was the first rushing score by an Iowa tailback since Sargent scored on a 4-yard carry to provide Iowa with its first points in the opening quarter of a 48-3 win over Middle Tennessee on Sept. 28.
There are a combination of factors that have stagnated the Hawkeyes' bread-and-butter rushing attack, including multiple moving parts on the offensive front.
"Our rhythm isn't right where we want it to be right now, but (Stanley's) pushing forward,'' Ferentz said.
5. The door reopens
Iowa took the field needing a little help to step back into the race in the Big Ten West Division.
Illinois delivered, bringing Wisconsin one step back to the pack with its 24-23 victory over the previously-unbeaten Badgers to leave Minnesota as the only unbeaten team in the West.
That reopens the door for the Hawkeyes to have more of a say in their own fate in the division race, facing Wisconsin and Minnesota on consecutive weekends next month.
"This is my 30th year in the league and it's really hard to predict what's going to happen. When people starting thinking they know the answers ahead of time, boy, that's when bad things happen,'' Ferentz said, suggesting his team would be wise to look no further ahead than its next opponent.
Iowa has only Saturday's game at Northwestern and a bye week between now and the back-to-back games with Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Meanwhile, the Badgers visit Ohio State this weekend and the Golden Gophers play only home games against Maryland and unbeaten Penn State before showing up at Kinnick Stadium on Nov. 16.