While a lot of credit has been given to the Iowa defense and its ability to get turnovers, the Hawkeyes have preached “complementary football” all year.

Earlier in the week, Iowa defensive back Jack Koerner talked about the offense, defense and special teams working “in unison.”

The belief was that if the defense wasn’t dominating — like it has all season — another unit would pick up the slack.

But on Saturday against Purdue, when the takeaways didn’t come, neither did the success.

“One play here or there would have changed the game dramatically,” linebacker Seth Benson said after the game.

There was so much wrong with this performance, it’s tough to pick where to begin.

“We couldn’t get pressure on the quarterback. Start there,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said after the game.

Thanks, coach.

“Then, when we did bring pressure, he [Boilermakers quarterback Aidan O’Connell] did a pretty good job for the most part getting the ball out, finding somebody who is open enough to convert the first downs,” Ferentz said. “No matter what direction we leaned, they seemed to have an answer. And that’s good football on their part.”

Purdue was 9-for-16 on 3rd down, often finding David Bell, who finished with a Kinnick-record 240 receiving yards, right when they needed him most.

“Just like when we’re winning, one thing feeds off the other,” Ferentz said. “Things complement each other. We couldn’t get off the field today. Credit to Purdue, they had a good attack. … I’m not sure I remember anybody rotating quarterbacks quite like they did.”

Three quarterbacks or not, it didn’t seem like Iowa could do anything right. Well, except one thing.

“I didn’t see much out there other than our return game that looked real good,” Ferentz said.

And Iowa wasted those opportunities — and short fields — the return game provided, particularly in the fourth quarter:

  • Ivory Kelly-Martin returned a kickoff 67 yards to the 19. The drive ended with a whimper at the 10-yard line: 2 quarterback sneaks that couldn’t combine for 2 yards.
  • Charlie Jones returned a punt 41 yards to the 12. The next play was an interception.

Hawkeyes quarterback Spencer Petras was picked off 3 times in the last 4 minutes, including on the last play of the game. Quite the contrast from Iowa’s first play: A 38-yard pass to Keagan Johnson. Johnson would add a 12-yard reception but was only targeted twice more. His 6 catches this year average 31.1 yards.

Ferentz wasn’t focused solely on his quarterback’s struggles after the loss. He said some of the blame falls on the line.

“Today was a tough day for all of us, and our protection wasn’t great. Made it tougher on him,” Ferentz said. “Whatever interception number we ended up with, you can’t just discount — I’m not suggesting that. But especially the last couple. It’s situational, part of that is situational. Still show up in the stat column at the end of the year; I get it. We need to protect him a little bit better.”

Koerner said there wasn’t a route the defense couldn’t cover Saturday, but they just didn’t execute. He’s not looking on the bright side of the 6-1 start just yet, but he thinks the loss will unify the three phases of the Hawkeyes even more.

“Obviously, with this one coming as late as it did, there’s a bad taste in our mouth,” Koerner said. “But just like last week, when everybody was praising us for how well we were playing, we can’t listen to that and we can’t listen to what people are saying about us now. At the end of the day, we’re 6-1. We’re going to learn from this game, go into the bye week, fix the things that need to be fixed and a five-game season starts from that point on.”