WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Purdue kicker Spencer Evans waited impatiently for a second chance.
When the opportunity finally arrived Saturday, he was ready, willing and spot on.
The senior made a 25-yard field goal with 8 seconds left to give Purdue a 38-36 upset over No. 19 Iowa, helping the surging Boilermakers move within one game of becoming bowl-eligible and back into contention for the Big Ten’s West Division crown.
“This is something I’ve pictured over and over again,” Evans said. “I just have to give credit to the guys for putting me in that position. They made it a nice, makeable field goal for me.”
The big finish came exactly one week after Evans endured a nightmare at Michigan State.
He missed a 57-yarder at the end of the first half following a 5-yard penalty against the Boilermakers and had a 41-yard attempt to tie the game blocked late in the fourth quarter.
This time, Evans and the field goal unit were virtually flawless after quarterback David Blough marched the Boilermakers 43 yards and put the ball on the left hash mark for the decisive field goal.
Blough was 23 of 32 with 333 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions while hooking up with Terry Wright for three scores.
But it was Evans’ kick that gave Purdue (6-2, 4-2) its third win over a ranked opponent this season, the first time the Boilermakers achieved that feat in 15 years, and within one game of division-leading Northwestern.
“Great job by our field goal unit of protecting and great job by Spencer kicking it right dead middle,” coach Jeff Brohm said.
The Hawkeyes (6-3, 3-3, No. 16 CFP) lost their second straight road game and another chance to celebrate coach Kirk Ferentz’s 150th conference victory. Woody Hayes, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Bo Schembechler and Joe Paterno are the only Big Ten coaches in the exclusive club.
Nate Stanley threw for 275 yards with one TD and ran for another score but it was Iowa’s vaunted defense that let down the Hawkeyes.
It was burned repeatedly for big plays and couldn’t come up with one last stop after Purdue took over at the 50-yard line with 4:30 to play.
“That was a really tough, tough loss for us to go through,” Ferentz said. “I think our team played extremely hard right to the finish. Not sure what more (the players) could have done.”
Stopping Wright would have helped. He caught six passes for 146 yards and became the first Purdue receiver to catch three TD passes in a game since Gary Bush in 2012.
Still, the defense gave the Hawkeyes a fighting chance.
Trailing 35-23 after Wright’s final score, a 3-yard TD catch, Mekhi Sargent scored on a 1-yard run to make it 35-30. Amani Hooker picked off Blough on the next offensive play and had a touchdown return called back because of holding.
Sargent wound up scoring on a 1-yard plunge a few minutes later to make it 36-30 with 10:19 to play after Iowa’s second 2-point conversion failed.
But the Boilermakers took advantage of a 31-yard punt by methodically moving down the field, positioning Evans for the kick he and his coach had been dreaming about.
“We had a kick blocked the last game that hurt us,” Brohm said. “We found a way to make this one.”
Iowa: After watching their playoff aspirations vanish with last week’s loss at Penn State, the Hawkeyes’ Big Ten title hopes have now likely faded away, too.
Purdue: The Boilermakers are 3-1 against ranked teams this season, but there’s plenty still at stake with two winnable road games and a home date against Wisconsin left on the schedule.
Iowa: Probably will fall out of the Top 25 after losing in back-to-back weeks by a total of eight points.
Purdue: Another win over a Top 25 foe should turn some heads but probably won’t make a strong enough case to get the Boilermakers back into the Top 25.
Iowa: Stanley moved into the top 10 on the school’s career list in yards passing, surpassing Kyle McCann. He also passed Matt Sherman (42) for No. 4 on the school’s career list for TD passes. ... The Hawkeyes gave up a season-high point total and a season-high for yards allowed (434).
Purdue: Markell Jones scored on a 1-yard run in the first half to move past Otis Armstrong (17) for No. 10 on the school’s career list. ... Wright scored on plays of 41 and 82 yards in addition to the 3-yard TD catch. ... Blough has five 300-yard games this season and 11 in his career.
Iowa: Hosts division-leading Northwestern next weekend.
Purdue: Visits Minnesota next Saturday.