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Hawkeyes lose momentum in poor third quarter

[ 0 ] August 31, 2013 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. - Iowa’s football team was off to a sluggish start in Saturday’s season opener. The Hawkeyes were, in the words of coach Kirk Ferentz, “grinding coffee.”

Nothing was percolating on offense. Northern Illinois had a 10-0 lead and was the dominant team at Kinnick Stadium. Less than a minute remained in the first quarter when linebacker Christian Kirksey changed that.

He popped tight end Luke Eakes after a catch, forcing a fumble. Then he scooped it up and went 52 yards for his third career touchdown.

“Plays like that spark you,” Ferentz said.

Iowa responded with 17 unanswered points, took a 24-17 halftime lead and seemed headed for a crucial season-opening victory.

More after the video …

It was a great story in the making for Kirksey, a senior, playing on his 21st birthday. And then the coffee went cold.

“We lost the game,” Kirksey said. “So the play doesn’t mean anything.”

The candles were blown out when the Huskies’ Jimmie Ward jumped an out route and picked off a Jake Rudock pass intended for Kevonte Martin-Manley with just over a minute to play. Mathew Sims’ field goal with :10 remaining dropped Iowa to its seventh straight loss, 30-27.

A long offseason, and no bowl a year ago, made for a hollow 2012 holiday season for the Hawkeyes. The talk since then has been the hunger this team had to rectify last season’s 4-8 disaster. Instead, fans left Kinnick Stadium Saturday with a hollow “here we go again” feeling.

Rudock’s late pick will be the headline today, but that is not what lost this game for the Hawkeyes. It was a rash of missed third-quarter opportunities, and some Northern Illinois trickery, that did it.

“A lot of things,” Ferentz said. “Inopportune penalties, the fake punt, you can go right down the line. We had an opportunity to change field position … all those things add up to being a successful team or an unsuccessful team.”

For the last season and a half, Iowa has gotten in its own way as much as the opponent has. The third quarter was the same old story.

Iowa’s second drive: Third and a yard at its own 40. Iowa goes with a quick snap. False start. Incomplete pass. Punt.

Iowa’s third drive: Took possession at the Northern Illinois 45. On the first play, a charging Ken Bishop hit Rudock’s arm as he threw. Interception.

Northern Illinois pulled to within 24-20 after a fake punt on fourth and 5 from the Iowa 46 kept a drive alive and resulted in a field goal.

Iowa’s fourth drive: Third and 1 from its own 40, Rudock throws a deep ball to Damond Powell. Incomplete.

“That really took the air out of our balloon,” Ferentz said.

A quarter with a world of opportunity ended. Iowa’s losing streak didn’t.
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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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