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By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Northwestern clinched the Big Ten West Division title with a 14-10 victory over the University of Iowa football team on Saturday afternoon inside Kinnick Stadium.
The Hawkeyes had possession with six minutes and 2:41 remaining, but fumbles derailed Iowa’s comeback hopes. Northwestern’s Cameron Ruiz forced a fumble on Iowa sophomore Mekhi Sargent at midfield with 4 1/2 minutes remaining, but Iowa’s defense got a stop, giving the Hawkeyes one final chance.
Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley started the drive with a pair of completions to T.J. Hockenson for 14 and 8 yards, moving the Hawkeyes to the 36. On first-and-10, sophomore Ivory Kelly-Martin coughed up the ball on a hit from Joe Gaziano and Ruiz recovered to seal the Wildcat victory.
The result concluded a defensive, special teams’ battle that saw Jake Collins and Colton Rastetter combine for 14 punts. Iowa out-gained Northwestern, 333-306, but the Wildcats’ rushing attack churned out 184 yards with freshman Isaiah Bowser powering for 165 yards on 31 carries with one touchdown.
On the flip side, Northwestern’s defense bottled up the Hawkeyes rushing attack to the tune of 64 yards and the Wildcats forced the two fourth quarter turnovers with the game in the balance.
Iowa junior Nate Stanley finished 27-of-41 for 269 yards and one touchdown with senior Nick Easley (8-53), T.J. Hockenson (7-89), and Ihmir Smith-Marsette (4-90) combining for 19 catches for 232 yards. Sargent led Iowa’s rushing attack with 27 yards on 10 carries.
Senior Jake Gervase led Iowa with 10 tackles and he had one of two Hawkeye interceptions. Sophomore Matt Hankins had eight tackles in his first game action since Sept. 22.
QUOTING HEAD COACH KIRK FERENTZ
“It was a tough loss against a team that has been playing well and they outplayed us tonight, especially in that second half. I told our players last week that we write our own history and that hasn’t changed and it gets decided out on the field. Tonight we came up short against a team that has been playing well since their bye week and they outplayed us. Nobody is more disappointed right now than the 115, 116 guys on our football team. They have worked hard, they have invested, and they competed hard tonight, but it wasn’t good enough. Moving forward, the biggest challenge for us tomorrow is getting ourselves back up on our feet. We’ll go back to work and we have to stay together. The guys have worked hard, but what we need to do now is show more improvement. Hopefully that will translate out there on the game field next week.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
- After nine combined punts and a turnover on downs in the first quarter and 3/4, Iowa took advantage of starting field position at midfield to notch the game’s first points. Stanley hit Easley for consecutive completions of 9 and 13 yard to start the drive. After moving to the Northwestern 28, Iowa got a Miguel Recinos 46-yard field goal to give Iowa a 3-0 lead with 56 seconds remaining in the first half.
- Northwestern drove 75 yards for the go-ahead touchdown on its second possession of the third quarter. The Wildcats moved into Iowa territory on a pass interference penalty on Hankins before Bowser broke free for a 34-yard touchdown run, giving Northwestern a 7-3 lead with 9:19 left in the third quarter.
- After Recinos had a 38-yard field goal bounce off the right upright, Iowa’s defense forced its second turnover. Senior Jake Gervase intercepted a tipped ball from Clayton Thorson, giving Iowa starting field position at the Northwestern 42. Stanley then connected with Smith-Marsette on consecutive completions of 14 and 28 yards — the latter giving Iowa a 10-7 lead with 4:27 remaining in the third quarter.
- Northwestern had a 19-play, 55-yard drive that resulted in zero points when kicker Jake Collins missed a 38-yard field goal, but the drive flipped the field position when the Hawkeyes followed with a quick three-and-out.
- The Wildcats were in business when Flynn Nagel returned a 35-yard Rastetter punt 14 yards to give Northwestern starting field position at the Iowa 46. The go-ahead touchdown came on first-and-10 from the 32 when Bennett Skowronek had a highlight-reel 32-yard touchdown. Skowronek laid out with Michael Ojemudia in tight coverage and pulled in the diving touchdown catch, giving the Hawkeyes a 14-10 lead with 9:27 to play.
- Stanley threw one touchdown, his 44th career touchdown pass, moving past Matt Sherman for fourth all-time in school history.
- Sophomore Geno Stone’s interception in the third quarter was his team-high fourth of the season. Iowa has 12 interceptions since Stone entered the starting lineup Week 5 (two in Weeks 1-4).
- Senor Miguel Recinos scored four points (1 FG, 1 PAT), raising his career total to 156, two behind Daniel Murray for 18th all-time. Recinos missed a 38-yard field attempt in the third quarter, snapping his streak of 11 consecutive made attempts. It was his first miss since Week 3.
- Sophomore Ihmir Smith-Marsette has a career-high 198 all-purpose yards. He had 100 kick return yards, a career-high 90 yards receiving, and 8 yards rushing. He matched his career high with four receptions. His 28-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter was Iowa’s lone touchdown of the game.
- The Hawkeyes lost a fumble on their final two rushes of the game. Iowa running backs had gone 490 carries without losing a fumble prior to Sargent’s fumble in the fourth quarter. The last time an Iowa running back lost a fumble was Oct. 28, 2017 (James Butler, fumble lost prior to halftime vs. Minnesota).
ON THE HORIZON
Iowa returns to action Nov. 17, traveling to Champaign, Illinois, to face Illinois at Memorial Stadium. Game time has yet to be announced.