Late scores push Wisconsin past Iowa, 17-13

Sept. 22, 2007

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MADISON, Wis. — There isn’t a column for gutsy efforts in the Big Ten standings. If there were, Iowa would be right at the top following a 17-13 loss to No. 9 Wisconsin tonight at Camp Randall Stadium. A crowd of 82,630 — the fifth largest in Wisconsin history — saw the Badgers come from behind to notch their 13th consecutive victory over a formidable Hawkeye squad that showed glimpses of offensive excellence along with its traditional defensive stinginess.

If Wisconsin is the ninth-best football team in the nation, Iowa is a very close 9a. The Hawkeyes had the Badgers on the ropes most of the night with their ball-jarring hits and a timely interception. But with the game on the line, an exhausted Iowa defense saw too much of Badger sophomore running back P.J. Hill who carried the ball 10 times on an 11-play drive early in the final period that ended in a 3-yard touchdown run by Hill and gave Wisconsin a 14-10 lead that it would never let slip away.

“Both teams competed hard and both defenses played very, very hard,” Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Our guys worked hard, competed and never gave up. Good things are going to come out of that.”

Wisconsin improved to 4-0 overall, 1-0 in the Big Ten. Iowa is 2-2, 0-1.

Iowa created the game’s first big break when linebacker Mike Klinkenborg blitzed up the middle and sacked Wisconsin quarterback Tyler Donovan, who fumbled just 3-minutes, 26-seconds into the game. An alert Hawkeye Bryan Mattison scooped the loose ball and gained 14 more yards to midfield. Iowa then moved the ball with a 15-yard pass completion from Jake Christensen to Albert Young before a 6-yard rush by Young took the ball to the Badger 24 after a 5-yard facemask penalty was added. Wisconsin wasn’t fooled on an end-around attempt by James Cleveland on the next play (a loss of 12) and a 3rd-and-22 pass from Christensen to Andy Brodell fell incomplete, ending the threat. Iowa punter Ryan Donahue pinned Wisconsin at its own 8 with a high 28-yard boot that was downed. The Iowa defense forced the Badgers to punt and following a 14-yard return by Brodell, Iowa began its second straight drive from midfield.

“Both teams competed hard and both defenses played very, very hard. Our guys worked hard, competed and never gave up. Good things are going to come out of that.”
Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz

Then a field-position chess match ensued for the remainder of the first period as both defenses continually flushed the opposing quarterback out of the pocket and on the run. It was an interception by Iowa linebacker A.J. Edds on Wisconsin’s third drive of the second period that set up the first score of the game. The Badgers had 1st-and-10 from their own 26 when Donovan lofted a pass over the middle that was picked off by Edds at the Wisconsin 46. The Hawkeyes put together a 7-play, 22-yard drive that included three Christensen completions and eventually moved the ball to the Wisconsin 24. Hawkeye freshman Daniel Murray — subbing for injured Austin Signor — kicked a 41-yard field goal like an old pro, giving Iowa a 3-0 lead with 2:28 left before halftime.

“We did a lot of good things but we’ll have to get back and review the film and see where we can get better,” Edds said. “We’ll need to move forward as a team offensively, defensively and special teams. We adjusted, we countered. We were just trying to make some plays out there.”

What occurred in the final 148 seconds made the defensive tussle that played out in the previous 27-plus minutes a mere hallucination. Wisconsin went to the air with Donovan completing four straight passes for 52 yards. Then the nation finally had a chance to see what it takes to score a touchdown against the vaunted Hawkeye defense (almost). It might not have taken a miracle, but it was one of the most bizarre situations that could ensue. Hill broke free and appeared to be rumbling to a 20-yard touchdown. Edds forced a fumble before Hill reached the end zone and a scrum for the ball followed in the end zone. Iowa’s Mike Humpal got his hands on the ball twice and during the commotion an official blew his whistle, signaling the play dead. When action ceased, Badger center Marcus Coleman was clutching the ball in the end zone. But that score was negated by an inadvertent whistle, and the ball was placed on the Iowa 3. After an incomplete pass from Donovan to Luke Swan, the duo of Donovan and Travis Beckum hooked up for a touchdown with 43 seconds left before the break.

Iowa’s defense was the last in the country to allow a touchdown, but its offense became one of the quickest to respond to the score on the next series. After a rare kickoff return by Iowa’s Dezman Moses, Christensen completed passes to Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Cleveland. After a 4-yard completion from Christensen to Johnson-Koulianos, the pair connected on a highlight reel grab that put the Hawkeyes back in front, 10-7. On 3rd-and-6 from the Badger 21, Christensen got enough air under the pass and Johnson-Koulianos tip-toed in the end zone with a nifty one-handed scoring reception.

The Hawkeye special teams kept the momentum going on the second-half kickoff. Wisconsin’s David Gilreath took the return up the middle of the field where he was met by a fierce blow from Iowa’s Jayme Murphy, which jarred the ball loose. Hawkeye Bradley Fletcher made the recovery and Iowa had its best starting field position of the game at the Badger 24. After three plays — including two runs by Young — Murray came in to attempt a 36-yard field goal that was blocked by Wisconsin’s Nick Hayden.

Although it didn’t net any points, Iowa’s final drive of the third period took the Hawkeyes from a very dangerous situation into one with a little added wiggle room. A Badger punt was downed at the Iowa 1 with 4:27 left in the third. With a loud student section screaming in his ears, Christensen bolted from the end zone and picked up 17 yards before sliding harmlessly to the turf. That was the first of three consecutive first downs for the Hawkeyes. It was followed by an 11-yard pass from Christensen to Cleveland and a 22-yard run by Damian Sims. But more importantly, it lead to a 10th Hawkeye punt of the game and was a preview of the “Drive by Hill.”

Hill was more than the workhorse on Wisconsin’s second scoring drive. He carried the ball 10 times on the 11-play series and scored from 2 yards out with 9:42 left. The 68-yard drive by the Badgers chewed 5:51.

A 37-yard field goal by Murray with 6:29 left reduced the Wisconsin lead to 14-13. Two big plays gave the Hawkeyes an opportunity to score. The first was a 44-yard kickoff return by Johnson-Kouluanos. The second was a 25-yard catch and run by Cleveland that took the ball to the Badger 14.

“Give credit to Wisconsin and its big O line,” Edds said. “Toward the end they just pounded. They played a good game up front.”

Wisconsin extended the lead to 17-13 on a 40-yard field goal by Taylor Mehlhaff with 2:02 remaining in the game. Just when the Hawkeye defense was getting back in the routine of shutting down Hill, another Badger sophomore, Lance Smith, broke off a 30-yard gain that took the ball to the Iowa 28. From there Wisconsin went into clock-chewing mode. The nine-play drive (all rushing attempts) spanned 47 yards and more importantly exhausted 4:19 of the game clock.

Christensen completed 17 of 37 passes for 169 yards with a touchdown. He was sacked four times.

“Jake really showed growth tonight and kept his poise,” Ferentz said. “He’s seeing things well out there.”

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