EVANSTON, ILL. The “Bullies of the Big Ten” were pinned down all afternoon by the nerds from Northwestern, suffering a 3-hour wedgie and wet willy in a 28-17 loss at Ryan Stadium.
The Wildcats dominated the Hawkeyes at the line of scrimmage, and pummeled them for 349 rushing yards.
And it was week after Iowa (4-4, 2-2 Big Ten) gave up 504 yards to Penn State.
“That’s not what we’re looking for,” Iowa junior linebacker James Morris said. “We need to tackle better. Just across the board, we need to be better. We need to get off blocks, run to the ball and make tackles.”
It was the most rushing yards given up by Iowa since they allowed Indiana to get 433 yards in 2000.
“It’s always bad to have a lot of rushing yards,” junior linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “That’s pretty poor. It all came down to being physical, tough, and keeping Mark and Colter contained and we just didn’t execute.”
Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter ran for 166 yards on 26 carries with three touchdowns. Diminutive running back Venric Mark had 162 yards on 16 carries.
“They are good players,” senior cornerback Micah Hyde said. “They broke contain and they gashed us up the middle too.”
The pair became the first duo to run for over 150 yards on the Hawkeyes since 2004 when Marion Barber III (167) and Laurence Maroney (156) did it for Minnesota.
“They’ve got two pretty explosive guys out there,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Both him and Mark, they’re quick, smart and instinctive. … It’s very, very challenging to defend.”
The Wildcats — who have now won 6 of the last 8 against Iowa — tore into the Hawkeyes from the start.
Northwestern (7-2, 3-2) opened the game with an 11-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown by Colter. The Wildcats passed just once on the drive, an incompletion.
“They just made big plays, and we had a difficult time trying to stop them,” sophomore defensive tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat said. “They just made big plays when it mattered.”
The Hawkeyes were ready for an offensive battle, however, senior quarterback James Vandenberg said.
“We didn’t execute on a lot of drives where we were moving the ball well,” Vandenberg said. “When you’re playing a really talented offense … they are going to score points. You’ve got to get 7s when you get those opportunities.
“We didn’t do that well enough in the first half.”
Iowa drove to the Northwestern 22, 33, and 23 on three first-half drives, and only got three points.
“We’ve got to finish,” Davis said. “It’s something we’ve got to work on. It’s a process.”
Northwestern — who had given up big second-half leads in losses to Penn State and Nebraska this season — added two quick touchdowns to start the third quarter.
Tyris Jones broke through and blocked a punt after the Iowa offense went 3-and-out to start the second half. It led to an easy 4-yard run by Colter.
“I think I’ve gone after Iowa, either as a head coach or special teams coach, for 13 years and I think we’ve been 0-for-12,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “So law of averages. We were just fortunate.”
After another 3-and-out by Iowa, the Wildcats connected on a 47-yard touchdown pass from Colter to Christian Jones to make it 28-3 with 10:43 left in the third quarter.
“We had them stopped at times,” Morris said. “But a breakdown here, out of position here, it’s a missed tackle here, it’s not understanding what your responsibility is … I have complete confidence in what we run, we just need to do it better.”
The Hawkeye defense finally tightened up in the final 25 minutes and gave the offense a chance to come from behind.
Iowa put together two long drives (12 plays for 59 yards and 9-84) that ended in Vandenberg sneaks across the goal line to make it 28-17.
But when Iowa got the ball back again with 4:23 left and had to score in a hurry … the slow, grinding style hurt the Hawkeyes.
Finally on 3rd-and-4 from the Northwestern 25 — with Iowa running a hurry-up offense — the Hawkeyes were flagged for delay of game.
“That’s on me,” Vandenberg said. “This (clock) is in a different position than maybe most, but the fact is you’ve got to get the ball snapped.”
On 4th-down and 3 Vandenberg’s pass sailed high and out of bounds, ending any hope of a wild comeback.
Vandenberg finished 24-of-38 for 214 yards. Damon Bullock — back on the field for the first time since suffering a concussion in the third game — had 107 yards on 22 carries.
Iowa now has four games left to get two wins and become bowl-eligible for the 12th straight season under Ferentz. They travel to Indiana (3-5, 1-3) next Saturday, with kickoff set for 2:30 p.m. (Big Ten Network).
“We’ve got to play better,” Vandenberg said. “That’s it. There’s nothing else to say.
“We have four tough games, but four games we can win.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football