Nov. 22, 2014
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By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — No. 14 Wisconsin held off the University of Iowa football team’s second-half rally to post a 26-24 victory and end the Hawkeyes’ Big Ten West Division title hopes on Saturday night inside Kinnick Stadium.
After falling behind 19-3 early in the second half, the Hawkeyes scored touchdowns on consecutive possessions to close the gap to 19-17 with 11:10 remaining in the game. Wisconsin and Iowa traded touchdowns in the final eight minutes before the Badgers picked up two first downs to run off the final 5:01 off the clock to hold on for a 26-24 victory.
“This was a tough loss for our football team,” said UI head coach Kirk Ferentz. “Both teams competed extremely hard, and it was a tough, hard-nosed, physical football game that was well-played by both teams. We came up a little short in the end. It was one heck of a football game, in one heck of an environment.”
The Hawkeyes finished with 412 yards of total offense — the most Wisconsin has surrendered all season. The Badgers entered the contest as the nation’s top defense, surrendering 244 yards per game. Iowa had 101 rushing yards on 28 attempts and 311 yards passing, as junior Jake Rudock completed 20-of-30 attempts with two touchdowns.
“Jake competed and played as well as he has during his time here,” said Ferentz. “… and he’s done a lot of good things for us.”
Senior running back Mark Weisman ran for 44 yards on 12 carries, while junior Tevaun Smith (78 yards), junior Jake Duzey (72 yards, one touchdown), and senior Kevonte Martin-Manley (33 yards, one touchdown) each had four receptions. Sophomore Matt VandeBerg made three catches for 67 yards.
Wisconsin finished with 405 yards of offense, which included 266 yards on the ground. Junior running back Melvin Gordon ran for 200 yards on 31 carries and scored two touchdowns, and had four catches for 64 yards. Quarterback Joel Stave was 11-of-14 for 139 yards through the air, and Wisconsin was 7-of-13 on third downs.
After trading punts on the first two series of the second half, Wisconsin took over at its own 8 before Gordon broke loose for an 88-yard burst — the longest run of his collegiate career. Sophomore Greg Mabin made the touchdown-saving tackle at the Iowa 4. The effort paid off, as Iowa’s defense held, forcing Wisconsin to settle on Rafael Gaglianone 22-yard field goal that extended the Badger lead to 19-3 with 5:33 remaining.
The Hawkeyes offense then found its pulse.
VandeBerg jump-started a seven-play, 70-yard drive by making a diving catch for 11-yards on third-and-12 from the Iowa 28. Iowa converted a fourth-and-1 via a Weisman 2-yard run before Rudock connected with Smith for a 31-yard gain along the Hawkeye sideline to the Wisconsin 28.
Following an 8-yard run by Jordan Canzeri into the red zone, Rudock threw a perfectly placed ball to Martin-Manley for a 20-yard touchdown into the corner of the end zone. Canzeri then pin-balled his way in to convert Iowa’s two-point conversion, cutting the deficit to 19-11 with 2:45 left in the third quarter.
After Iowa’s defense forced a punt on Wisconsin’s next possession, the Hawkeye offense kept its momentum with a six-play, 82-yard scoring drive. Rudock began the series with a 28-yard pitch-and-catch to Vandenberg to move the ball to midfield before connecting with Duzey for a 33-yard on the next play to the UW 21.
On third-and-6 from the 17, Wisconsin’s Darius Hillary was flagged for a pass interference penalty on a pass intended for Smith. After losing a yard on first down, Iowa lined up in a five-wide formation with an empty backfield, where Rudock scored on a designed quarterback draw from 3 yards out. The two-point conversion failed when Rudock rolled to his right, but the ball was batted down, making the score 19-17 with 11:10 to play.
“We got exactly what we wanted (on the two-point conversion), and they made a good call,” said Ferentz. “We had a plan and came into the game with two, two-point plays. We had the right call and they came up with a good call, too. That happens during the course of the game.”
Wisconsin deflated the Iowa crowd with a seven-play, 75-yard scoring drive to take a 26-17 lead with 7:44 remaining. On third-and-13 from the UW 32, the Badgers caught Iowa in a safety blitz, and made them pay. Stave connected with Gordon for a 35-yard gain to the Iowa 33. Two plays later, Gordon’s patience paid off, as he took a hand-off and waited before bouncing outside for a 23-yard touchdown run.
The Hawkeyes wouldn’t say die, as Rudock led Iowa on a quick 86-yard touchdown drive in 2:43. The junior connected with Canzeri for 27-yards on a screen on the first play, moving the ball to the Iowa 41 before finding Duzey for 23 yards on the next play to the UW 36.
On third-and-15 from the 41, Rudock scrambled for 21 yards to the 20 before following with a second-run for 11 yards to the 9. On first-and-goal, Rudock connected with Duzey for a 9-yard touchdown pass on a crossing route, cutting the deficit to 26-24 with 5:01 remaining.
With only one timeout at its disposal, the Hawkeyes needed a stop to have a chance, but they couldn’t get off the field. Iowa forced Wisconsin into a third-and-8 with two minutes to play, but Stave made a back-breaking play when he scrambled for 12 yards to pick up the first down to clinch the Badger victory.
“Joel made a great read,” said Wisconsin head coach Gary Anderson. “Joel saw the crease, took a good angle, and was able to make a good play. The team hung in there, fought, adversity struck again, and they battled through it.”
Wisconsin forced the game’s only turnover on the second play of the game when Badger safety Michael Caputo knocked the ball loose and recovered a Weisman fumble, giving the Badgers possession at the Iowa 39. After giving up a first down on an 11-yard completion to Gordon on first down, Iowa’s defense held, holding the Badgers’ to three points via Gaglianone’s 50-yard field goal.
Iowa’s offense answered with a 14-play, 79-yard drive that tied the game at three. The Hawkeyes nearly went three-and-out to start the series, but a running into the punter penalty on Joe Schobert kept Iowa’s drive alive, and the Hawkeyes capitalized.
Iowa converted two third downs on the series — a 10-yard pass to Damond Powell on a wide receiver screen on third-and-10 from its own 27 and a 28-yard pass to VandeBerg on a crossing route on third-and-3 from the Iowa 44. The Hawkeyes moved the ball into the red zone, but were forced to settle on Marshall Koehn’s 26-yard field goal.
Wisconsin controlled the remainder of the half, scoring touchdowns on both of its second quarter drives to take a 16-3 lead into the locker room.
The Badgers rushing attack set up the go-ahead touchdown — a seven play, 70-yard drive. Four Gordon rushes moved Wisconsin to midfield before back-up quarterback Tanner McEvoy faked a jet sweep to Gordon before scoring untouched from 45 yards out, giving the Badgers a 9-3 lead. Gaglianone missed the extra point.
Wisconsin pushed its lead to 16-3 with a 6 1/2 minute scoring drive that went 12 plays and covered 73 yards. On first-and-15 from the Wisconsin 33, Lowdermilk stripped Gordon, but the ball popped up and was recovered by Kenzell Doe. On the next play, Doe caught a 25-yard pass from Stave, moving the Badgers to the Iowa 39.
Wisconsin converted two third-and-longs on the series, moving the chains on a third-and-8 with a 12-yard pass to Troy Fumagalli and a 13-yarder to Sam Arneson on third-and-11 from the 26. Gordon made the score 16-13, scoring untouched from 6 yards out with 1:05 left in the first half.
Iowa (7-4, 4-3) closes out the regular season hosting Nebraska in the Hy-Vee Heroes Game on Nov. 28. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. (CT).