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By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — No. 18/16 Wisconsin scored two touchdowns in the final 57 seconds to hand the University of Iowa football team a 28-17 defeat Saturday night inside Kinnick Stadium.
The Badgers took over with 5:40 remaining and trailing 17-14 following Iowa’s first three-and-out of the game. Wisconsin followed with a 10-play, 88-yard scoring drive to silence the sold-out crowd of 69,250.
Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook completed all five passes during the go-ahead possession, including a 28-yarder to Kendrick Pryor to the Iowa 42. A.J. Taylor’s 17-yard touchdown reception gave the Badgers the 21-17 lead.
Iowa started its ensuing drive at its own 24-yard line following a 19-yard return by senior Kyle Groeneweg. On third-and-4, junior Nate Stanley targeted sophomore Ihmir Smith-Marsette on a route underneath, but the ball caromed off of Smith-Marsette’s hands and into the arms of Wisconsin’s T.J. Edwards for the game-clinching interception.
It was the Hawkeyes’ third turnover of the game.
Wisconsin out-gained the Hawkeyes, 415-404, in the game, including a 210-yard effort on the ground. Hornibrook completed 17-of-22 attempts for 205 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor rushed for 113 yards on 25 attempts.
Stanley finished 14-of-23 for 256 yards and two touchdowns with three of those completions going to junior tight end T.J. Hockenson for 125 yards. Junior Noah Fant had three catches for 29 yards and two touchdowns.
Iowa’s rushing attack finished with 148 yards — 72 coming from sophomore Ivory Kelly-Martin on 14 attempts.
WHEN IT WAS OVER
The Badgers put an exclamation point on their third straight win in the series when Alec Ingold took a handoff on a misdirection play and out-ran the Iowa defense for a 33-yard touchdown. The score extended the lead to 28-17.
The touchdown drive capped a dominant fourth quarter where the Badgers out-gained Iowa, 176-72.
QUOTING HEAD COACH KIRK FERENTZ
“I’m proud of our team’s effort. Our guys played and fought hard, both teams did. But that being said, it’s a tough loss, our first conference game, and I think as everybody saw, we made some critical errors. If you’re going to win a Big Ten game you have to play cleaner football than what we did tonight. That was the tough part about it. You play Wisconsin, first of all, we anticipated this kind of effort from them. What we saw last week was certainly uncharacteristic, when you think about how many football games they have won over the last five years. They came ready to go. Right along with that, when you play Wisconsin, possessions are at a real premium.
“We squandered a couple opportunities on that front and ended up paying for that at the end, too. Bottom line is, our guys played hard, we just didn’t play well enough to win. Credit Wisconsin for that, they did a good job. It’s our first loss in the conference, first loss this year, comes at a break, so we’ll sit back and reassess things a little bit. I think we made progress over the first month and the two keys right now are how we respond and then how we move forward and that’s where our focus will start. We will start tomorrow.”
TURNOVERS, TURNOVERS, TURNOVERS
Wisconsin won the turnover battle, 3-0, turning two of the miscues into 14 points.
The Badgers forced a fumble on a Kyle Groeneweg punt return in the second quarter when D’Cota Dixon forced a fumble at the Wisconsin 45. After Iowa grabbed a 10-7 lead courtesy of a 24-yard Miguel Recinos field goal on its first drive of the second half, the Hawkeyes committed their second miscue and the Badgers capitalized.
After Iowa’s defense forced a Badger punt, redshirt freshman Shaun Beyer had the ball carom off of his foot during the return. Wisconsin’s Travian Blaylock pounced on the loose ball at the 10-yard line and two plays later Hornibrook hit Danny Davis on a 12-yard touchdown pass, giving the Badgers the 14-10 advantage.
Iowa’s third turnover came on its final possession when Stanley’s attempt to Ihmir Smith-Marsette was picked off. It was Stanley’s third interception of the season.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- The Hawkeyes started fast, driving 80 yards over 11 plays on the game’s first possession. Iowa had a first-and-10 from the 14, but came away empty. The Badgers bottled up Toren Young for a 4-yard gain and 2-yard loss on first and second down before Stanley completed a 7-yard pass to Ivory Kelly-Martin to the 5. On fourth-and-1, Wisconsin stuffed Stanley for no-gain for a turnover on downs.
- The Badgers drove the length of the field for a 95-yard scoring drive to take a 7-0 lead. The big play came via a 33-yard pass to Ingold to the 6 and Hornibrook connected with Jake Ferguson for a 6-yard touchdown pass on the next play.
- Iowa tied the game late in second quarter, taking advantage of a big play and throw from Stanley. On third-and-9 from the Iowa 34, Stanley rolled to his left and heaved a 46-yard completion to T.J. Hockenson to the Badger 20. On the next play, Stanley found Fant alone in the end zone, tying the game at 7 with 5:15 left.
- The Hawkeyes took the lead on their first series of the second half, moving 69 yards over 10 plays. A 46-yard pass to Hockenson gave Iowa a first-and-goal at the 6, but the Hawkeyes couldn’t punch it in, settling for a 24-yard Miguel Recinos field goal.
- After Wisconsin capitalized on the special teams mistake to take a 14-10 lead, Iowa drove 75 yards for the go-ahead score. Fant capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown reception, giving Iowa a 17-14 lead.
- Wisconsin retains possession of the Heartland Trophy. The Hawkeyes are 11-3 in their last 14 trophy games. All three losses are to Wisconsin.
- Junior tight end Noah Fant had two touchdown receptions (20, 1). It was his fourth career multi-touchdown game. He has 16 career touchdown receptions, tying Ed Hinkel and Robert Smith for fifth all-time in program history. Fifteen of Fant’s 16 touchdowns have come from quarterback Nate Stanley over the last 17 games.
- Junior Amani Hooker had a team-high 11 tackles, sophomore Nick Niemann (10), senior Jack Hockaday (9), and junior Anthony Nelson (7) set career-bests in tackles.
ON THE HORIZON
The Hawkeyes are idle next week. They return to the field Oct. 6 at Minnesota. Kickoff is TBA.