Iowa waited until the final minute of the game to hit one deep at Wrigley Field. Deacon Hill found Ohio State transfer Kaleb Brown for a 23-yard reception to get inside the Northwestern 40-yard line. It set up a 52-yard field goal for Drew Stevens that he booted straight through the uprights. The game-winning field goal capped a pitcher’s duel in a 10-7 win for Iowa over Northwestern. Minnesota lost to Illinois, Nebraska lost to Michigan State, and Wisconsin lost to Indiana on Saturday as well. This puts Iowa in sole possession of first place in the Big Ten West Division after week 10.
The Stand 2.0
Northwestern went three and out on five of their 11 drives on the day. It finally found footing late in the game. The Wildcats put together an 18-play 66-yard drive that took 9:24 off of the clock. It got all the way to the Iowa goal line. The Hawkeyes committed a pass interference penalty that set the Wildcats up at the two-yard line with a fresh set of downs. Cam Porter gained a yard on first down, and then the Hawkeye defense held their goal line in an effort reminiscent of “The Stand” from their 2006 game at Syracuse.
The Hawkeye defense gave up zero yards on a second-down quarterback keeper. Sebastian Castro and Nick Jackson got the stop. Porter rushed the ball on third down and Jay Higgins absolutely stuffed him at the point of attack. Zero yards again. On fourth down, the Wildcats tried the quarterback sneak again, and Kyler Fisher made the play. Another gain of zero yards, and a turnover on downs. It was the epitome of Phil Parker’s “bend don’t break” philosophy, and it kept the shutout alive.
Iowa’s Final Sequence at Wrigley Field
Northwestern found the end zone with just under two minutes to play, ending Iowa’s 11-quarter streak of not allowing a touchdown. The game was tied at seven when the Hawkeyes returned the kickoff to their own 28. Hill completed two important passes on the first three plays of the drive. One for eight yards to Nico Ragaini, and the 23-yard pass to Brown for the transfer’s first reception as a Hawkeye.
The pass set the Hawkeyes up inside the Northwestern 40-yard line. The offense rushed the ball on three consecutive plays, settling for a long field goal. Stevens connected on a 52-yarder that landed in the right field basket above Wrigley Field’s ivy.
Offense Can’t Be Overshadowed
Iowa’s seventh win on the season can’t cloud the overall performance on offense. Iowa had the ball inside the Northwestern 40-yard line on four occasions in the first half. It resulted in zero points. The second offensive drive of the day was one of them, and it advanced to the Wildcat 32-yard line. On the ensuing third down and long, Brian Ferentz drew up a screen pass that resulted in a loss of four yards. It pushed Iowa to the outside edge of its field goal range. Steven’s field goal attempt bounced off the upright, and the Wildcats took over. This kind of play-calling is one of the reasons Ferentz is being let go at the end of the season. Points come at a premium for this football team, and messing around when a field goal is in range is poor coaching.
Iowa having not made a quarterback change is beginning to become inexcusable. Hill finished the game with one touchdown, an interception, a fumble (not lost), and just 65 yards. He threw a 50/50 ball to a slot receiver in the end zone that was never there. Wildcat cornerback Theran Johnson came down with the interception on that throw.
Hill made another throw late in the third quarter while avoiding a sack that, this time, narrowly fell incomplete. It should have been intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Hill spun around and flung the ball towards the sideline to avoid a sack deep in Iowa territory. It came while Iowa had a 7-0 lead, and could have been very costly.
We’ve been talking about it for a few weeks now, but the Iowa coaching staff has to recognize that its quarterback needs a breather. Hill has started four games now, each finishing with a completion percentage under 43%. He’s been incredibly loose with the football and now has four interceptions and six fumbles (five lost) on the year. Prior to the Northwestern game, Hill has made nine turnover-worthy throws. He had three against Northwestern.
Iowa Beats Northwestern Inside Wrigley Field
Five days after the announcement of the offensive coordinator’s termination at the end of the season, Ferentz’s offense tallied 169 total yards and 10 points. But it was enough to give Iowa its seventh win on the season, and the program now controls its own destiny heading into the heart of November. This was the second straight game where the offense failed to gain 200 yards. The third of the year. Change coming at offensive coordinator can’t come soon enough for Hawkeye fans, but the team keeps winning.
Outside of the Penn State game earlier this season, Iowa has yet to allow more than 16 points in a single contest. The seven given up today was the first touchdown allowed since October 7th. Parker continues to coach an elite level of defense, and it was on display again in the Friendly Confines. Iowa moves to 7-2 on the season and once again has everything in front of them.