Iowa is officially going to the Big Ten Championship Game.
That's been the expected outcome for weeks now, but the Hawkeyes made their spot in the title game official with a division-title-clinching 40-20 win over Purdue on Saturday afternoon in Iowa City.
It looked like Iowa was going to cruise to victory early, as the Hawkeyes scored touchdowns on each of their first three drives of the game. LeShun Daniels had two touchdown runs, and C.J. Beathard hit Matt VandeBerg to make it a 20-0 lead at the outset of the second quarter.
But the game changed when a Jordan Lomax hit knocked Purdue quarterback David Blough out of the game. Former starter Austin Appleby relieved the injured Blough and breathed new life into the Boilermakers, leading three straight scoring drives in the second and third quarters. He completed his first 10 passes for 98 yards in the second quarter, setting up a Markell Jones touchdown run and a late field goal to make it a 10-point deficit at the half. And Purdue's first drive of the third quarter also ended in a field goal, to make it just a touchdown difference.
Both those field goals, though, came from up close, when touchdowns could have made it a very different game.
The Hawkeyes, though, shook off those mid-game doldrums and went on a 91-yard touchdown drive in the third and a 79-yard touchdown drive in the fourth, with George Kittle and Henry Krieger Coble catching touchdown passes from Beathard.
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Appleby threw his first touchdown pass of the day in the fourth quarter, but it was too little too late. Jordan Canzeri's 42-yard touchdown run in the game's final minutes made it a 20-point lead for Iowa, a cherry on top of the win.
As Iowa fights for national respectability, West Division bottom-feeder Purdue managed to put a scare into the undefeated No. 5 team in the country. The Boilers racked up better than 400 yards of total offense. Appleby's relief effort was stellar, as he threw for 259 yards and a touchdown.
But Iowa got the big plays it needed, Beathard throwing a trio of touchdown passes and Canzeri rushing for 95 yards.
The win clinched a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game for the Hawkeyes, who are perfect through 11 games this season and still have a great chance of making the College Football Playoff. After next weekend's regular-season finale against Nebraska, Iowa will play either Ohio State, Michigan State or Michigan in the title game in Indianapolis.
The loss dropped the Boilers to 2-9 on the season. A loss in the season finale against Indiana would send Purdue to its second season with double-digit losses in the three seasons Darrell Hazell has been at the helm.