Down by 14? No problem (again) for Hawkeyes

Nov. 3, 2007

Box Score | Quotes | Notes | Photo Gallery 1 | Photo Gallery 2

Kirk’s weekly media conference (Oct. 30)

EVANSTON, Ill. — Move over, Michigan State. You’re off the hook.

The University of Iowa used a 14-0 run in the fourth quarter and defeated pass-happy Northwestern 28-17 at Ryan Field on Saturday, improving to 5-5 on the season and still very much alive for a bowl berth. It was also just the second time in 40 games that the Hawkeyes have emerged victorious under Head Coach Kirk Ferentz when trailing after three periods. The last time that happened was the first league win for Ferentz, 21-16 over the Spartans, in 2000.

Hawkeye senior running back Damian Sims had scoring runs of 2 and 8 yards during the final period as Iowa overcome a 14-point deficit for the second consecutive week. There was no shortage of defense from the black and gold during the final 15 minutes, either. Aside from numerous sacks and an assortment of other tackles for loss, Iowa also had two momentum-shifting interceptions — the first was the first of Bradley Fletcher’s career with 6:56 remaining. Less than two minutes later, Charles Godfrey picked off his fifth pass of the season, which is the most by a Hawkeye since Jovon Johnson had six interceptions in 2003.

With the win officially in the books and the traditional hand shaking and helmet pats over, the swarm of Hawkeye players darted toward the Northeast bleachers to share the moment with thousands of Hawkeye fans who made the journey.

The Hawkeyes are now 5-5 overall, 3-4 in the Big Ten. Northwestern dips to 5-5, 2-4.

Iowa running back Albert Young rushed for a team-high 59 yards on 16 carries, giving him 2,986 for his career to move past Tavian Banks (2,977) into fourth on the all-time career rushing list.

Not only did the Hawkeyes come from behind on the scoreboard, but they closed the gap with game statistics during the course of the contest as well. Northwestern still finished with an edge in first downs (24 to 18) and total yards (393 to 369). When all the figures were tabulated, it was Iowa quarterback Jake Christensen who looked like the Big Ten’s leading passer. He out-dueled Northwestern’s C.J. Bacher, who entered the game as the conference leader in passing yards per game and total offense. Christensen completed 21 of 36 passes for 299 yards and a touchdown and no interceptions, while Bacher heaved 54 passes, completing 27, but he was intercepted three times. Both signal-callers were sacked six times. After the first period Iowa was out-gained 196-12 and had no first downs, while Northwestern had picked up 11.

“It’s hard to play good defense if you don’t hit and make tackles. We weren’t doing that in the first half. The fourth quarter was enjoyable to watch. We were playing hard and playing to disrupt things and we did.”
UI Coach Kirk Ferentz

“It’s hard to play good defense if you don’t hit and make tackles,” Ferentz said. “We weren’t doing that in the first half. The fourth quarter was enjoyable to watch. We were playing hard and playing to disrupt things and we did.”

Hawkeye freshman Derrell Johnson-Koulianos hauled in eight passes for 119 yards and a long of 32. Defensively, Fletcher and linebacker Mike Humpal both had 11 tackles. Both also had interceptions. Humpal’s came with 24 seconds left in the third period at the Iowa 19-yard line.

Northwestern wasted little time posting the game’s first touchdown. After starting the initial drive at their own 27, the Wildcats gobbled up large chunks of yardage, gaining 23 and 25 on back-to-back pass completions from Bacher to Ross Lane. A healthy Tyrell Sutton did the rest, rushing for 21 yards on four carries and plunging over the goal line from 2 yards at the 12:29 mark following a third-down pass interference penalty against the Hawkeyes. The initial drive covered 73 yards on seven plays and used just 2-minutes, 31-seconds.

Five of the first 11 plays by Northwestern were good for 14 or more yards. But the Iowa defense stiffened when needed on the second Wildcat series. On third-and-8 from the Iowa 41, Adrian Clayborn was charging hard at Bacher, who then had his pass broken up by Fletcher.

Northwestern took a 14-0 lead after a 2-yard pass from Bacher to Mark Woodsum with 3:32 left in the first period. The Wildcats put together a 13-play drive and converted on three third-down attempts to grab a two-touchdown advantage. Prior to the drive, Iowa had excellent punt coverage that forced Northwestern to start from its own 25. Ryan Donahue booted a 52-yarder and Godfrey tackled Eric Peterman for a minus-1 yard return.

Despite being dominated in total yards (269 to 121), the Hawkeyes made it a game in the second quarter and two huge efforts — one by Christian Ballard and the other by Clayborn — kept Iowa within striking distance. With less than 10 minutes left in the half, Northwestern drove to the Hawkeye 32 when Bacher dropped back to pass, but he was planted to the turf by Ballard for a 13-yard loss. That play essential kept the Wildcats out of scoring position as kicker Amado Villarreal was short on a 49-yard attempt. Then, with three seconds remaining in the half and leading 14-7, Clayborn blocked a 34-yard field goal attempt by Villarreal.

Nearly half of Iowa’s total offense in the first half came on its first scoring drive. The Hawkeyes went 60 yards on seven plays, culminating in a 20-yard touchdown pass from Christensen to Trey Stross with 49 seconds left in the half. Christensen opened the drive with a 7-yard scramble, followed by a 6-yard pass to Brandon Myers and an 8-yard run by Young. The biggest gainer of the drive was a 17-yard completion from Christensen to Johnson-Koulianos. On second down, Johnson-Koulianos grabbed a 2-yard reception before the scoring toss to Stross.

“The conversation (at halftime) was a little more pointed,” Ferentz said. “One team was competing hard and we weren’t. We just didn’t show up ready to play. Fortunately we got it straightened out.”

Young and Christensen used their legs and arm to knot the score at 14 on the opening drive of the second half. Christensen completed 4 of 5 passes on the drive for 49 yards and Young finished it off with a 16-yard scamper at the 10:46 mark. A big play that moved the chains was an acrobatic 26-yard grab by James Cleveland that took the ball from the Iowa 40 to the Northwestern 34. The 10-play, 71-yard drive consumed 4:14.

Villarreal gave the Wildcats another brief lead, 17-14, with a 42-yard field goal with 7:00 left in the third period. The Hawkeyes had big plays on both sides of the ball on their next few drives, but they had to settle for one touchdown in the frame. Donahue had a 76-yard punt (fifth longest in school history) that went a yard too far for a touchback. Kenny Iwebema brought an end to Northwesterns’s ensuing drive by batting a third-and-4 pass to the ground. Harold Dalton was credited with a quarterback hurry on the play. Humpal then stepped up with his third interception of the season.

An aerial hook-up from Christensen to Stross was the big play in perhaps Iowa’s biggest scoring drive of the season. On first-and-10 from the Hawkeye 40, Christensen threw a perfect pass to a streaking Stross who would have scored had he not stepped out-of-bounds at the Wildcat 6. A third-down pass interference penalty against Northwestern in its own end zone gave Iowa new life at the 2. Sims blasted through the left side of the line for a touchdown, giving the Hawkeyes a 21-17 lead with 7:44 left in the game.

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