Sept. 27, 2008
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa fumbled a golden opportunity during the Big Ten Conference opener this afternoon, falling 22-17 inside Kinnick Stadium to a Northwestern squad that finds itself heading into the sixth week of the season with a 5-0 record.
Iowa lost five turnovers — four of them fumbles –and slipped to 3-2 overall, 0-1 in the league.
You would have a hard time convincing the 70,585 in attendance — Iowa’s 34th consecutive sellout — that the Hawkeyes would be held scoreless over the final 32:11 of the game. In fact, a strange thing happened while Iowa was trying to extend a 17-3 lead with 1:14 left before halftime. Let the record show that too many turnovers will more than negate big plays. Iowa broke off 18 plays of more than 10 yards in the game and seven for more than 20, but the Hawkeyes couldn’t overcome five turnovers, losing to Northwestern for the second consecutive time at home.
“Losing is no fun and opening the door up to help your opponent — we have to get that corrected,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Credit Northwestern. They played hard and certainly deserved to win. We clearly didn’t play well enough or clean enough to win it.”
Shonn Greene’s biggest day of his career was cut short after a blow to the head that resulted in the loss of a fourth-quarter fumble. Before the miscue, Greene again showed why he is one of the most dominant running backs in the country, gaining 159 yards on 21 carries. Although his presence was missed during the final two drives by the Hawkeyes, it boiled down to Iowa not picking up eight yards during its final four plays. Hawkeye quarterback Ricky Stanzi misfired on his final four pass attempts, the last was knocked away by Northwestern’s John Gill with 1:08 left in the game.
Stanzi completed 21 of 30 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown. Andy Brodell caught eight of those passes for 126 yards and the lone score through the air from 45 yards.
Iowa topped 400 yards of total offense (407 on 61 plays) and picked up 24 first downs. The Hawkeyes held slight advantages over Northwestern in both categories. The Wildcats gained 390 yards on 79 plays and moved the chaines 22 times.Iowa’s Jeremiha Hunter and Pat Angerer both recorded double-digit tackles. Hunter had 12 and Angerer registered 11. Matt Kroul was in on nine stops.
“We knew today would be a heavyweight fight,” Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “That’s Big Ten football. Our hats are off to Iowa. We made some good adjustments at halftime and we came out with the mentality that we went into the game with, which is keep swinging and keep fighting.”
“Our guys played hard. Our last possession today offensively, we gave ourselves a realistic chance to win the football game. We couldn’t quite get it done but at least I saw a lot of positives there. If we continue to respond like we that, we’ll have a chance to shape into a good football team.”
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz
Although Ferentz said he was disappointed with the loss, he saw plenty of positives.
“Our guys played hard,” Ferentz said. “Our last possession today offensively, we gave ourselves a realistic chance to win the football game. We couldn’t quite get it done but at least I saw a lot of positives there. If we continue to respond like we that, we’ll have a chance to shape into a good football team.”
Iowa won the toss and elected to receive. The first series for the Hawkeyes included three plays of 11 or more yards — a pass completion of 15 yards from Stanzi to Brodell, a 21-yard run by Greene and an 11-yard pass completion from Stanzi to Brandon Myers on fourth-and-3. The Hawkeyes fumbled the snap — and the ball — over to Northwestern on first down.
Iowa forced a timely turnover of its own on the first drive by the Wildcats. Bachér completed his first three passes for 36 yards before he was intercepted on a third-down play from the Iowa 24. Bachér was looking for Rasheed Ward, who was blanketed by Hawkeye cornerback Bradley Fletcher. Fletcher batted the ball and it was picked off by Hunter, who returned it 21 yards to the Iowa 37. Greene gained 50 yards on five straight carries, setting up a 30-yard field goal by Trent Mossbrucker with 6:06 left in the first period.
Iowa ended the first period with a 13-yard completion from Stanzi to Brodell that took the ball to the Northwestern 31. It marked the seventh play by the Hawkeyes in the first 15 minutes that went from more than 10 yards. Iowa reeled off four plays of 20 or more yards during that span.
The Hawkeyes extended the lead to 10-0 with an 8-play, 90-yard drive that was aided by two crucial penalties by the Northwestern secondary. It was capped by an 18-yard touchdown run by Greene with 13:20 left before halftime. Out of Iowa’s first 20 plays, eight went for 10 or more yards.
The teams traded second-quarter flubs — Stanzi was intercepted a first-down pass attempt by Wildcat defensive end Vince Browne. Northwestern couldn’t capitalize on the ensuing drive that started at Iowa’s 22. Amado Villarreal’s 37-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Iowa’s Christian Ballard and returned six yards by A.J. Edds.
The most efficient drive of the day by the Wildcats culminated with a 37-yard field goal by Villarreal and sliced Iowa’s lead to 10-3. The 14-play drive covered 54 yards and included seven pass completions by Bachér.
Greene, Stanzi and Co. wasted little time answering. In a matter of 1:50, Greene rushed twice for 14 yards and Stanzi was 2 of 2 passing for 55 yards and a 45-yard touchdown to Brodell. The scoring catch by Brodell was Iowa’s 11th play of the game over 10 yards and the fifth over 20.
Then the craziness began. The Hawkeyes used their final timeout with 1:14 left in the half in an attempt to get the ball back for another opportunity at more points. A third turnover — this time a lost fumble by Brodell on the punt return — gave the Wildcats the ball back at Iowa’s 33. A 24-yard completion from Bachér to Ward on third-and-4 with 36 seconds left placed the ball on the Hawkeye 3. Two plays later the same combination hooked up for a 1-yard scoring toss and Northwestern pulled within a touchdown with 17 seconds left before halftime, 17-10.
Iowa dominated the ground in the first half, gaining 130 rushing yards out of its 237 total. Greene picked up 107 yards on 13 carries. Stanzi was 9 of 11 passing for 107 yards and a touchdown. Northwestern gained 196 yards in the first half, with 142 coming through the air and 54 on the ground.
The big play formula worked so well for the Hawkeyes in the first half, that Northwestern decided to give it a try coming out of the locker room to start the second. The Wildcats converted plays of 35, 15 and 11 yards before completing a 15-yard touchdown pass from Bachér to leading receiver Eric Peterman, who was shutout during the first 30 minutes. Villarreal misfired on the PAT and Iowa still led, 17-16.
Iowa’s game next Saturday at Michigan State will kick off at 11 a.m. Iowa time and will be televised live by ESPN2.
Unfortunately, Iowa’s generosity continued. Turnover No. 4 by the Hawkeyes was a fumbled kickoff return by Amari Spievey. Spievey fielded the ball at the Iowa 12, where he was hit by Browne, fumbled and it was recovered by Jeravin Matthews at the Iowa 19. That mistake didn’t hurt the Hawkeyes as Villarreal botched a 34-yard field goal attempt with 10:55 left in the third.
It took 12 plays after Iowa turnover No. 5 — a fumble by Greene at the Northwestern 38 — before the Wildcats notched the go-ahead touchdown with 7:54 left in the game. Bachér completed a 3-yard touchdown pass to Peterman, giving Northwestern a 22-17 lead. A two-point conversion pass by Bachér was batted incomplete.
With Greene resting on a sideline bench, the Hawkeyes went to the air with Stanzi completing a 25-yard pass to Brodell and an 8-yarder to Wade Leppert. Then the wheels fell off what looked like a promising drive. A completion to Trey Stross was called back because of offensive pass interference. Then Northwestern posted back-to-back sacks of Stanzi by Corey Wooten and Brad Phillips.
Iowa hits the road for the second time this season next Saturday when the Hawkeyes play Michigan State at East Lansing. Kickoff is scheduled for 11:05 a.m. Last season Iowa defeated the Spartans 27-20 in double overtime inside Kinnick Stadium.
“You have to have a short memory,” Ferentz said. “You have to have a long memory, but a short memory. You have to learn from what keeps you from winning.”