Nov. 12, 2005
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MADISON, WI — Iowa brought rain to the home-season finale for No. 19 Wisconsin in more ways than one Saturday, as the Hawkeyes scored 20 unanswered points to pull out a wet 20-10 upset on Barry Alvarez Day.
The governor of Wisconsin had declared Saturday “Barry Alvarez Day” across the state in honor of the Badgers head football coach, whose head coaching career ends after 16 years. Alvarez, who stays on as UW’s athletic director, had his last game inside Camp Randall Stadium before a record crowd of 83,184 and was honored by former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala and former Iowa football coach Hayden Fry after the game.
The victory was needed for Iowa (6-4, 4-3 Big Ten) to become bowl eligible and avoid three-straight losses. Wisconsin falls to 8-3 overall and 5-3 in the conference for the season. By beating the Badgers for the fourth-straight year, the Hawkeyes retain possession of the Heartland Trophy for the second year of its existence.
“On one hand I have great feelings for Barry and the program up here, but the most important thing on our docket was making our team feel better,” Head Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I hate to be a little selfish here, but the people I care about most are our football players.”
It looked grim for Iowa through the first quarter when the Badgers scored all 10 of their points and forced the Hawkeye secondary to scramble to keep up with quarterback John Stocco, who went 21 of 38 for 257 yards.
“We wanted to start fast,” Alvarez said. “We did what we wanted to do to start the football game. Obviously, we’re disappointed that we couldn’t come out of there with a win, but I take my hat off to Iowa, they played very well, particularly in the second half.”
Despite a holding penalty on the play, Brian Calhoun managed a 20-yard screen pass with Stocco that was called back to the 17-yard line. One play later, Stocco connected with Brandon Williams for the touchdown. Williams had nine catches for 132 yards through the game.
The Badgers came out on their next possession with a 12-play drive that ended with a 24-yard field goal by Taylor Mehlhaff to end the first quarter, 10-0.
But that was it for Wisconsin, which became the first Iowa opponent to fail to score in the second half since the season opener against Ball State.
Kyle Schlicher capped off the Hawkeyes’ first foray into Badger territory with a 35-yard field goal with 11 minutes remaining in the second quarter.
Both teams, though, had trouble finishing drives in the first half.
Stocco found Jonathan Orr on a huge 37-yard incompletion that would have scored had Orr not dropped it in the endzone under strong coverage by Iowa cornerback Antwan Allen. The Badgers dropped four would-be touchdown passes through the game.
“We got lucky,” linebacker Chad Greenway said. “It comes down to concentration, and the long one he dropped would have been a touchdown, so sometimes it takes some luck.”
The pelting rain that whipped through the stadium like a carwash didn’t hurt Iowa’s defense either, but Ferentz said the precipitation didn’t influence the Hawkeyes’ game plan.
Iowa overcame the miserable conditions and came back from a halftime deficit for the first time since 2003, the last time it beat a ranked opponent on the road, which coincidentally was a win against Wisconsin.
The Hawkeyes came out firing in the second half, after trailing 10-3 at intermission.
Their first play of the second half was a 40-yard pass from Drew Tate to Clinton Solomon. They connected again for 15 yards on the next play.
“We just took advantage of what was there,” running back Albert Young said. “They were putting a lot of guys in the box and so we had to look downfield to make something happen. It’s a lot easier to get 40 yards in one pass than by grinding it out on the ground.”
Once to the Wisconsin 6-yard line, Tate threw the equalizing touchdown pass to a wide-open Champ Davis with 10:11 on the clock in the third quarter.
Davis became the open man after two wideouts on the left side of the field ran a slant formation, distracting the Wisconsin secondary, and leaving Davis behind the line of scrimmage on the same side and ready for his first career touchdown.
“I thought we came out more aggressive in the second half and it really paid off I think,” Tate said. “That’s what we needed, and it helped us.”
With the game tied, Iowa’s defense snapped to life, keeping the Badgers on their side of the field for the next five possessions. It limited Calhoun, their leading rusher, to 18 yards on 15 carries, and the entire team to 19 yards despite 31 carries.
“We just got more pressure up front,” cornerback Jovon Johnson said. “The D-line did a great job in the second half and we just did what we wanted to today. The linebackers made the plays, and we gave up some passes, but we contained them pretty well.”
Defensive lineman Mitch King and defensive end Kenny Iwebema got two sacks apiece off Stocco for minus-17 yards combined. Bryan Mattison also got a sack for minus-8. Overall, there were 10 tackles for a cumulative loss of 47 yards.
“We’re coming along,” Greenway said. “Our defenders aren’t so young anymore. They’re playing like seniors, and it’s fun to see that. It’s the greatest feeling. It really is.”
On the flip side, Young, a sophomore, rushed 26 times for 127 yards for Iowa. It was his sixth-consecutive game over 100 yards and his seventh of the season.
“Coming into the second half we knew it was our game and we just had to come in there and do it,” he said. “This game we let everything hang out. We didn’t have anything to lose.”
Later in the third quarter, Tate connected with Ryan Majerus for the tight end’s second-career touchdown, a 13-yarder with a minute left in the period, to put the Hawkeyes ahead for the first time in the contest, 17-10.
“It takes a lot of pressure off our seniors to keep our bowl game streak going. It’s just something special to beat Wisconsin, a good football team, four years in a row.”
Cornerback Jovon Johnson
Tate went 21-of-34 passing for 224 yards. His one interception happened in the first quarter, and was returned by Joe Stellmacher 30 yards to set up Wisconsin’s only touchdown.
Ed Hinkel returned from a broken right arm with four catches for 50 yards. Solomon led Iowa’s receiving corps with five receptions for 77 yards.
“I think we just executed in the second half,” Hinkel said, adding that it was “awesome” returning for the win. “We got off to a slow start in the first half. We were moving the ball well, but we weren’t finishing any of our drives. We picked up our intensity in the second half and really got it going.”
Schlicher, who converted both his points after, nailed a 32-yard field goal to put the finishing touches on the win with 9:21 left. Schlicher now ranks 10th on Iowa’s all-time list for points scored with 173 in his career.
Ferentz said that the win was important on several levels.
“It’s just tremendous,” the coach said. “Every game hasn’t gone the way we want, but the last two games out have been very disappointing for our football team. It was very important for all of us to keep our bowl string alive, and more importantly, we just wanted to have a good showing today. The next thing we have to do is finish the season.”
Johnson, who returned from a hamstring injury that kept him out of the Northwestern game, said becoming bowl eligible for the fifth time in as many years was a relief.
“It takes a lot of pressure off our seniors to keep our bowl game streak going,” he said. “It’s just something special to beat Wisconsin, a good football team, four years in a row.”
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com