Iowa Hawkeyes earned their biggest win of the 2022 season, illustrate stretch run hope

Iowa just earned their most important win of the season by far.

Funnily enough, you could say the same last week. With their entire world falling apart at the seams after their 54-10 loss to No. 2 Ohio State, their third Big Ten loss in a row, Iowa needed a win more than ever against Northwestern. The team needed it, the coaching staff needed it, and more importantly, the fans needed it.

The Hawkeyes delivered with their best performance of the season to date, a convincing 33-13 victory over the Wildcats. “Who even is Northwestern, though?” many said after the game.

It felt like a weird win to celebrate for Hawkeyes fans, defeating a 1-7 team that you’d expect to take care of. The win certainly wasn’t going to convince many non-Hawkeyes fans around college football that Iowa was starting to figure things out, nor ease the concerns of the heavy naysayers within the fanbase itself.

For as good as they looked, they weren’t going to be able to shake off the aura that it was “just Northwestern.” They needed a strong follow-up statement, one they would make in the heavy winds of Ross-Ade Stadium.

It always felt this season like the team was at odds with itself. While the defense would dominate, the offense would not hold up their end of the bargain. Finally against Purdue, though, the Hawkeyes finally delivered a complete team performance: a 24-3 statement win over a fellow division contender.

The defense was fantastic as usual, pressuring Aidan O’Connell and forcing some bad throws that led to turnovers. It should surprise nobody that Phil Parker’s unit was up to the task. However, the offense looked way better than just the 24 points scored suggests.

Spencer Petras looked very comfortable behind an improved line for the second week in a row. He looked way more decisive, and it showed on his touchdowns to Nico Ragaini and Sam LaPorta, the star tight end’s FIRST receiving touchdown of the season. Again, Petras didn’t take over, but he played solid fundamental football.

Freshman running back Kaleb Johnson did take over, however, once again showing why he is the future of this Hawkeyes backfield. The Hamilton, Ohio, native registered 200 rushing yards and a touchdown in his biggest game of the season, averaging 9.1 yards a pop. He flashed serious superstar speed on his 75-yard house call at the beginning of the third quarter. Johnson has officially surpassed the “one to watch for the future” label. He’s here!

How many times this entire season can Hawkeyes fans seriously say they felt little stress during a game? Everything just felt like a breath of fresh air against Purdue, and looked much like the team we all expected to see this season. In fact, that’s two weeks where they’ve looked that way.

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WATCH: Full highlights of the Iowa Hawkeyes' well-rounded win at the Purdue Boilermakers

It felt like the Hawkeyes’ season was down the drain just a few short weeks ago, but it might be too early to count out the Hawkeyes. The entire Big Ten West division has been a massive derp-fest outside of Illinois, and the Illini decided to join in on the fun this past weekend. Losing 23-15 to Michigan State doesn’t look good for Illinois.

Suddenly now, there is a path for Iowa, but it involves a little bit of luck and getting the dang job done themselves. If Iowa wins out and Illinois derails and loses two of their last three, then the Hawkeyes will be heading to the Big Ten championship. It sounds farfetched, but don’t forget that Illinois has to travel to Ann Arbor in two weeks. Michigan looks absolutely unstoppable right now. Illinois faces Purdue next week.

Of course, none of this means anything if Iowa cannot get the job done themselves, and it is a difficult job. The next three weeks see dates with Wisconsin, a road trip to Minnesota, and a final matchup with Nebraska.

Just like that, Wisconsin-Iowa has massive implications again in the Big Ten West.

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Low boil: Social media reacts to the Iowa Hawkeyes' 24-3 win at Purdue

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Everything Kirk Ferentz said about the Iowa Hawkeyes win at Purdue

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Rapid reaction: 10 key takeaways from Iowa convincingly topping Purdue

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Story originally appeared on Hawkeyes Wire