Purdue’s football team returned to the field Saturday to begin a season not many thought would take place only a few weeks ago. The Boilermakers won their opening game against Iowa, 24-20, by overcoming several obstacles.
To begin with, Coach Jeff Brohm, the brains behind the Purdue offense, was absent because of a positive test for COVID-19 earlier in the week. Along with Brohm, redshirt sophomore star wide receiver Rondale Moore attended the game, but was not in uniform for undisclosed reasons. Brian Brohm, Jeff’s son, took over as the play-caller, stepping up from his usual position as quarterbacks coach.
“I want to say how proud I am for our team coming together to get this victory (and) for coaches banding together in a time of crisis,” said Brian Brohm.
The Boilermakers faced another crisis in the fourth quarter trailing, 20-17, with time running out.
The Boilermaker defense, which forced four fumbles during all of 2019, forced the most critical Iowa fumble in the fourth quarter, one of three fumbles forced by Purdue. It led to the six-yard, game-winning touchdown pass from junior quarterback Aidan O’Connell to David Bell.
O’Connell, who started the last three games of last season and got the nod to start the 2020 opener, finished the day completing 31 of 50 passes for 282 yards. He threw for three touchdowns, but was intercepted twice. He spread the ball around through the day and utilized eight different receivers.
O’Connell’s favorite target was Bell, a sophomore wideout who caught 13 passes for 121 yards and three touchdowns. It was Bell’s seventh game with more than 100 yards in receptions.
Purdue junior running back Zander Horvath rushed for a game-high 129 yards despite the Hawkeyes having the upper hand with their ground attack. The Hawkeyes didn’t have any running backs with 100-yard days, but had three backs who shared the ball and contributed to 195 yards on the ground.
Purdue completed the first of a shortened eight-game season and will travel to Champaign next Saturday to take on Illinois, which dropped its season-opener Friday night against Wisconsin.