Kaleb Johnson returns from injury to rush for 134 yards in Hawkeyes' 20-14 win over Purdue

Purdue Iowa Football
Posted at 12:04 PM, Oct 08, 2023

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Kaleb Johnson rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown in his return from an ankle injury as Iowa defeated Purdue 20-14 on Saturday.

The Hawkeyes (5-1, 2-1 Big Ten), who came into the game ranked 130th in the nation in total offense, were outgained 357-291 by the Boilermakers (2-4, 1-2) but came up with enough big plays for the win.

Johnson, who came into the season as Iowa's starter at running back, missed the last three games after rushing for 91 yards in Iowa's first two games.

"I just love being back," Johnson said. "It just gives me a chance to do what I do."

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Johnson's return came sooner than he expected.

"He looked like he was 100 percent," Ferentz said.

Johnson's second carry was a 67-yard touchdown that gave Iowa a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

"I thought, 'I'm gone,' " Johnson said of the hole he ran through. "I knew I was going to score, so I just slowed down a little bit at the end."

Johnson said sitting out for the last three games had been difficult.

"I was kind of hurting inside," he said.

Johnson rushed for a career-high 200 yards against Purdue last season as a true freshman.

"I feel like, against them, it's personal to me," Johnson said. "I've got a lot of people I know on that team. We've been stuff-talking to each other on the phone before the game. That's what it is, basically."

Iowa quarterback Deacon Hill, making his first career start in place of the injured Cade McNamara, completed just 6 of 21 passes for 110 yards but threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Erick All in the third quarter.

Purdue had almost an 11-minute advantage in time of possession. But Iowa's defense, which came into the game with just three sacks, sacked Hudson Card six times and forced two interceptions. Logan Lee had two of the sacks among his 10 tackles.

"Based off of how hard the guys work in the defensive line room, I had a feeling this was going to come," said defensive end Joe Evans, who had one of the sacks.

"That was a good effort by all of the guys," Ferentz said. "Sometimes it's just better making quarterbacks uncomfortable, not just sacks. But sacks are always a good thing. Today was clearly the best job we've done."

Iowa had 12 tackles for loss.

"Those guys got after it up front," Iowa linebacker Nick Jackson waid. "Shoot, they've been living for that all year."

Card threw for 247 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Sheffield late in the first half. Devin Mockobee, who had a 2-yard touchdown run with 2:54 left in the game, rushed for 89 yards.

Besides the two turnovers by Card, the Boilermakers also had six penalties for 45 yards. They got into Iowa territory three times on their first four possessions, but couldn't score.

"Against a good team like Iowa, you can't have those mistakes, especially where we're at as a team," Purdue coach Ryan Walters said. "I thought defensively, we gave ourselves a chance. But we had to play perfectly, and we didn't."


Purdue: The Boilermakers followed their season high in points in last week's 44-19 win over Illinois with a season low in scoring. They dominated in time of possession, but could get nothing out of their offense, which went 9 of 19 on third down.

Iowa: Johnson's return helped the Hawkeyes' running game, which had struggled in his absence. Iowa finished with 181 rushing yards, 74 above its season average. Hill's accuracy issues were disconcerting, but All helped him out with two big catches, including the touchdown, and finished with five receptions for 97 yards.


Purdue: Hosts Ohio State next Saturday.

Iowa: At Wisconsin next Saturday.

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