Nov. 1, 2014
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By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — It was a perfect storm for the University of Iowa football team, and it resulted in a 48-7 thrashing of Northwestern on an America Needs Farmers Saturday inside Kinnick Stadium.
The victory moves the Hawkeyes to bowl eligibility for the 13th time in 14 seasons, improving their record to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in Big Ten play; Northwestern falls to 3-5, 2-3.
“We are happy to get out with a victory,” said UI head coach Kirk Ferentz. “This was our best performance this season, stating the obvious.”
Iowa piled up a season-high 483 yards of total offense, which included a season-best 262 rushing yards, and the Hawkeyes scored their most points in a Big Ten game since 2005. Junior Jake Rudock finished 12-of-19 for 239 yards with a touchdown, and Iowa nearly boasted two 100-yard rushers.
“It has been awhile since we looked that way,” said Ferentz. “We played good team football; three areas of play complemented each other. We had a couple of things we’re going to have to correct, but for the most part we played good, complementary football, which is important for us.”
On a day when he notched his first career carry, redshirt freshman Akrum Wadley led Iowa with 106 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown, becoming the first Hawkeye in 10 games to reach the 100-yard mark. Senior Mark Weisman finished with 94 yards on 20 carries, and he tied a career-high with three touchdowns, accomplishing the feat for the third time in his career.
“Mark gave us good juice out there, especially in the first half,” said Ferentz. “Then we were able to get him out in the second half, which was a good thing, and get Akrum some carries. It was good to get Akrum up and running.”
Seven different Iowa players caught at least one pass, which included a five-catch, 90-yard performance from sophomore Matt VandeBerg — a career best. Junior Tevaun Smith had four catches for 76 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown reception.
Iowa’s defense was nearly as dominant.
The Hawkeyes limited Northwestern to 55 yards in the first half and just 180 yards for the game. The Wildcats didn’t eclipse the 100-yard mark in total offense until the 8:30 mark in the third quarter. Iowa’s defense had five sacks, including a career-high three from senior Louis Trinca-Pasat, and finished with eight tackles for loss. Senior John Lowdermilk led the team with 12 tackles and forced a second quarter fumble.
“The big story of the game was both lines,” said Ferentz. “They did a good job, and the defensive line came up with some critical stops, pushing the pocket back and causing pressure. Louis has been doing a great job all along, Drew Ott gives us some juice and Nate Meier, Carl Davis, and Mike Hardy, as well.”
Wildcat quarterback Trevor Siemian was 8-of-18 for 68 yards in the contest, while freshman running back Justin Jackson was NU’s lone bright spot, gaining 99 yards on 24 carries. Jackson scored the lone Wildcat touchdown in the game.
Iowa bombarded the Wildcats to start the game, jumping out to a 24-0 first-quarter lead. The offense fed off the defense and vice versa, as the Hawkeyes outgained Northwestern 146-12 in the opening 15 minutes.
Redshirt freshman Jonathan Parker jump-started Iowa’s first scoring drive, taking the opening kickoff 54 yards to the Wildcat 46 and a 15-yard personal foul gave the Hawkeyes possession at the 31. After Rudock connected with Smith for a 5-yard gain on first down, Weisman burst for an 18-yard gain to the 8. Two plays later, Weisman scored from eight yards out, giving Iowa a 7-0 lead with 13:15 left in the quarter.
After giving up a first down on the first Northwestern play, Iowa’s defense didn’t allow the Wildcats to move the chains a second time until the final play of the first quarter.
The Hawkeyes began their second drive with a 23-yard pitch-and-catch from Rudock to Smith to its own 33 before trickery gave Iowa a first-and-10 from the NU 25. Weisman took a handoff, pitched back to Rudock on the flea flicker where he connected with VandeBerg for a 42-yard gain. After a botched fumble derailed the drive, Iowa pushed the lead to 10-0 courtesy of a 48-yard field goal by junior Marshall Koehn — his sixth straight make this season.
After a quick three-and-out, the Hawkeyes pushed their lead to 17-0 on a five-play, 60-yard scoring drive. Rudock kept the drive alive, connecting with senior Kevonte Martin-Manley on third-and-9 for a 43-yard gain to the Wildcat 16. Two plays later, Weisman scored from 14 yards out, carrying a pair of Northwestern defenders into the end zone with 5:28 left in the first quarter.
Iowa’s defense bottled up Northwestern for a minus-12 series on three plays on the next series, which included an 11-yard sack by Trinca-Pasat on third down. The Hawkeye special teams then got in on the action, pushing the lead to 24-0 when freshman Ben Niemann beat Greg Kuhar and got a hand on Chris Gradone’s punt, recovered at the 1 and scored with 3:39 remaining in the half.
“Ben has made a great effort for us,” said Ferentz. “We were close on the punt before that. It was good to see a young guy make a nice play.”
The only big thing that went wrong for Iowa in the game came on its final possession of the first quarter, and it resulted in Northwestern’s only points. After being stopped and forced to punt for the first time in the game, junior Dillon Kidd couldn’t handle a snap and took a 20-yard loss, giving the Wildcats a short field with possession at the Iowa 18. Northwestern capitalized and scored following four rushes, the touchdown coming on a Jackson score from 1-yard out, cutting the lead to 24-7 with 14:21 left in the half.
The Hawkeyes had an immediate answer, using a 12-play, 75-yard scoring drive. It was a heavy dose of the rushing — six runs to midfield — before Iowa converted to key third downs. Rudock connected with Martin-Manley for 18 yards on a crossing route on third-and-9, and he hooked up with Smith for a 31-yard touchdown strike on an over the shoulder throw on third-and-7, giving Iowa a 31-7 lead.
Iowa took advantage of a Wildcat turnover late in the second half to stretch its lead to 38-7 at the break. On third-and-10 from its own 28, Siemian connected with Kyle Prater for a 14-yard gain before Lowdermilk jarred the ball loose. After the ball pin-balled off a number of players, sophomore Greg Mabin recovered, giving Iowa first-and-10 from at the NU 34.
Iowa needed just three plays to score its fifth touchdown of the first half. Wadley opened the Hawkeye drive with a 23-yard run on first down to the 11 before Weisman followed with two rushes, including an 8-yard touchdown run — his third score of the contest.
Northwestern forced an Iowa turnover — a Wadley fumble — on the first Hawkeye series of the second half, which led to a 55-yard Wildcat drive to the 1. Wide receiver Mike McHugh made a highlight one-handed 24-yard grab to the Iowa 4 on second down on a play that was initially ruled incomplete, but was overturned by instant replay.
Iowa’s defense stood firm. After an incomplete pass on first down, Jackson rushed 3 yards to the 1 on second down before Lowdermilk and junior Drew Ott stopped Jackson dead in his tracks trying to leap into the end zone on third down. On fourth-and-goal, senior Quinton Alston broke up Siemian’s attempt, giving Iowa the turnover on downs.
The Hawkeyes scored their first points of the second half early in the fourth quarter courtesy of a seven-play, 50-yard drive. Wadley ran for 39 yards on the series — including a 26-yarder to the 10 — but Iowa settled on a Koehn 24-yard field goal, pushing the Iowa lead to 41-7.
Iowa pushed the advantage to 48-7 with a 17-play, 81 yard drive that ran 8:37 off the clock. Wadley had seven carries for 37 yards on the series, including a 5-yard touchdown run — his first career score — with 3:17 remaining. Sophomore C.J. Beathard was under center, completing 5-of-6 passes for 34 yards and rushing three times for 23 yards.
The Hawkeyes return to action next Saturday, heading to Minneapolis to face Minnesota in a battle for the Floyd of Rosedale. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. (CT).