WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – David Bell matched his uniform number with three touchdown receptions, including the go-ahead score with 2:15 remaining, propelling Purdue to a 24-20 comeback victory vs. Iowa on Saturday as the Big Ten season began at Ross-Ade Stadium.
The Boilermakers (1-0) forced three fumbles and recovered twice. The key turnover took place with six minutes remaining in the game as Dedrick Mackey punched the ball free from Iowa running back Mekhi Sargent. Cam Allen came up with the recovery at the Purdue 28-yard line, halting an Iowa drive that had covered 47 yards in six plays with the visitors leading 20-17.
Bell became the first Boilermaker with three touchdown receptions in a game since Terry Wright caught three vs. Iowa in November 2018. Bell’s touchdown catches were for nine, 11 and six yards. He caught four passes for 49 yards on the second scoring drive and finished the day with 13 receptions for 121 yards. It was the second year in a row the Indianapolis native had 13 catches vs. Iowa.
Bell recorded his seventh 100-yard receiving effort in just 13 career games and his fourth game with at least 10 catches. The sophomore has scored 11 career touchdowns as a Boilermaker.
Zander Horvath ran for 129 yards on 21 carries, converting a first down on a third and two run at the 4:00 mark of the fourth quarter. Aidan O’Connell earned the start at quarterback and threw for 282 yards along with the three touchdowns to Bell.
Purdue drove the ball to the Iowa 12-yard line with eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter before settling for a field goal. However, the defense delivered the big turnover. O’Connell and the offense cashed in with a 12-play, 72-yard drive for the game-winning score. Horvath ran for 31 yards on the drive, including an 11-yard carry to put Purdue at the 11-yard line.
A 17-yard pass on the first play of the fourth quarter allowed Iowa to turn a fourth down and four play into a first down. It led to a 33-yard field goal, the first points of the second half for either side. Iowa carried a 17-14 edge into halftime after both teams previously held seven-point leads.
Alexander’s hit on wide receiver Brandon Smith led to another Hawkeye fumble with eight minutes remaining in the second quarter, but Iowa recovered and marched 47 yards over its next eight plays to take a 14-7 lead on a one-yard touchdown run by Sargent.
The Boilermakers had the ball at midfield in the final minute of the second quarter when O’Connell was picked off by Iowa’s Matt Hankins. Despite taking over at 36-yard line with 31 seconds to go, the Hawkeyes put the ball in the air and were able to drive for a go-ahead field goal by Keith Duncan. A pair of 20-yard pass plays allowed Iowa to move the ball to the 10-yard line with 10 seconds left and a timeout remaining, but an ill-advised run for no gain left the Hawkeyes no choice but to kick a 27-yard field.
The Boilermakers were unable to take advantage of a broken coverage early in the second quarter as O’Connell slightly overthrew Bell on a second down play from the Purdue 11-yard line. O’Connell was sacked by Barrington Wade for a loss of nine yards on the next play. Instead of a big play, the field quickly flipped as a 25-yard punt return gave the Hawkeyes a short field and they cashed in for a game-tying touchdown on a one-yard sneak by quarterback Spencer Petras.
Milton Wright caught all three of his targets for 35 yards on Purdue’s first touchdown drive. The senior hauled in three more passes, including gains of 15 and 20 yards, on the Boilermakers’ first scoring drive of the second half. He finished the day with seven receptions for 85 yards and also downed a punt at the 3-yard line in the first quarter.
Purdue moved the ball effectively to begin the second half, highlighted by a 33-yard run by Horvath, during which he impressively hurdled a would-be tackler along the east sideline. But two plays later O’Connell was intercepted by Wade at the 3-yard line on a pass slightly thrown behind Payne Durham, caroming off the tight end’s hands directly to Wade. The Hawkeyes flipped the field position with a drive to midfield and then downed a punt at the 1-yard line.
Both teams failed to score in the third quarter, but Iowa held an advantage in field position after the interception.
Purdue returns to action on Halloween when it travels to Champaign for a noon ET kickoff with Illinois.
Courtesy of Purdue sports information.