By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa football team will push toward playing cleaner football when it travels to West Lafayette, Indiana to tangle with Purdue on Nov. 3.
Iowa (6-2 overall, 3-2 Big Ten) and Purdue (4-4, 3-2) are both coming off losses against Big Ten East Division foes. The Hawkeyes fell at Penn State, 30-24, and the Boilermakers lost at Michigan State, 23-13. Prior to Saturday’s loss, Purdue had scored 37, 30, 42, 46, and 49 points in its last five games.
“We go into another tough challenge this week,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said in an interview Sunday with hawkeyesports.com. “We are playing on the road again in a tough environment against another team that is very good. Purdue has shown how explosive it can be a week ago against Ohio State. It is a good challenge for us and hopefully we’ll do a great job this week getting ready to play our best football this Saturday.”
On Oct. 20, the Boilermakers defeated No. 2 Ohio State, 49-20.
For the Hawkeyes, the game at Purdue is the first of four in the month of November against Big Ten West Division opponents.
“Based on the previous weeks, good luck to anybody trying to predict what’s going to happen this next month,” Ferentz said. “The bottom line is we need to focus on playing our best football this month and the best way to do that is to just focus on this week. The team has been doing a good job of that all season long.”
Iowa is coming off a six-point loss at Penn State in a game it led 12-0 and was on the Nittany Lion 3-yard line with 3:21 to play, trailing, 30-24. In between, the Hawkeyes battled back from a 10-point deficit to stay in contention.
“Despite some of the challenges we gave ourselves, the guys fought hard, played hard, and even right to the bitter end, we had an opportunity to win the football game,” Ferentz said. “That’s a credit to our players’ determination and ability to stick with it.
“When you look at our two losses this year, it gets down to playing cleaner football. That was the case (Saturday). We had a handful of plays that, if we could get them back, might have made a big difference and that is usually the case when you lose a game.”
Ferentz was pleased that the Hawkeyes played good, team defense the majority of the game at Penn State. Five of 10 Nittany Lion drives were three plays-and-out.
“For the most part we did a lot of good things defensively,” Ferentz said. “That’s what you’re looking for out there. It was good team defense, the guys up front did a good job. Some of the pressure and sacks they got was the result of good coverage. We did a lot of positive things there — we just have to keep pushing.”
Offensively, Mekhi Sargent rushed for 91 yards on 16 carries. It marks the third straight game that Iowa has had an individual rush for more than 90 yards; Sargent is also the third different back to join that group. Toren Young gained 96 yards on 19 carries at Indiana and Ivory Kelly-Martin picked up 98 yards on 28 carries against Maryland.
“Mekhi is still learning, but he did some good things yesterday,” Ferentz said. “He competed hard and well against a very athletic defense; a team that has good size and speed. He competed well and helped give us a chance to still be in that ball game at the end.”