I know Northwestern has only beaten Iowa three years in a row (right, Stacy?) but it seems like it’s been 30 years since Iowa has knocked off the Wildcats.
2002 was the last time the Hawks won in Iowa City over the ‘Cats so Saturday’s 41-31 victory at Kinnick Stadium was big time– sort of like getting the 900-pound gorilla off Iowa’s back.
I’ve said this before about not liking night games at Kinnick.
The good part was the crowd was electric, the card display was really cool and the Hawkeyes played great.
The bad, for my part, is I have to wait around all day getting nervous about that Northwestern offense, trying to watch other games during the day and watching the clock tick down as the sun sets.
Plenty of stars for the Hawkeyes and plenty of big plays.
When a team controls the clock like Northwestern did, with the Cats having the ball for 38 minutes to Iowa’s 22; and 495 total yards compared to Iowa’s 379; and they made 16-22 third down conversions to Iowa’s 1-7; you would think they would win the game going away… not so fast, my friends.
I’ve been telling some of my close friends that I thought Iowa’s defense is built a little better to stop the spread offense this year.
Iowa has more depth at defensive line, faster linebackers and four-to-five really good defensive backs.
This is before I knew James Morris was injured and would not start at linebacker. Also, Thomas Nardo would not be able to play on the defensive line because of injury. Plus, backup linebacker Anthony Hitchens was out so the Hawks were a little thin.
The Defense It might sound a little strange starting with the defense since they gave up all those yards and 31 points, but the Wildcats’ last touchdown came with 1:22 left and the game was in the bag.
Tanner Miller’s 98-yard interception return in the first quarter set the tone for the game and gave the Hawks a 10-0 lead.
“It was a great play that he made,” said Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz. “There was some great blocking out there.”
Broderick Binns had a fumble recovery in the second half that resulted in a Hawkeye field goal, which was huge.
The Iowa defense combined for eight tackles for losses (including three sacks) as Mike Daniels, Dominic Alvis, Steve Bigach, Broderick Binns and Tom Donatell were in the ‘Cat backfield all night.
Tyler Nielsen filled in at middle linebacker and led the team with 12 tackles. Micah Hyde and Christian Kirksey followed with nine each.
The Hawks knocked out quarterback Dan Persa, who led the charge the last couple of years in Northwestern’s come-from-behind victories.
It is so important when Marcus Coker is running the ball with power and authority. The 6-0, 230-pound sophomore had his best game this year with 124 yards, two touchdowns and a 5.6 average.
The running game sets up the play action pass, and both touchdown throws were play action.
The first was James Vandenberg finding a wide open Keenan Davis for a 47-yard score in the second quarter. Keenan had five catches for a team-high 109 yards.
Then James found Marvin McNutt, who was also wide open, for a 37-yard score in the fourth quarter. Marvin had six catches for 87 yards and also caught an onside kick and returned it for 14 yards in the fourth.
Marvin has 21 career touchdown catches, which ties him with Tim Dwight and Danan Hughes on Iowa’s all-time list.
James finished a solid day, going 14-22 for 224 yards. The biggest play he made was a running play.
There was 4:16 left in the game and Iowa had a fourth and one on Northwestern’s 15 leading 34-24. James faked it to Marcus, rolled right and took it down to the 1-yard line. Great downfield blocking by Brad Herman. Marcus scored on the next play… game, set, match.
Brad Rogers continued to make his comeback, doing a good job blocking and caught a pass out of the backfield.
Iowa also used De’Andre Johnson at running back in the fourth and he had three carries for 18 yards.
Iowa needs at least one running back to give Marcus a breather.
Mike Meyers kicked two big field goals from 27 and 40 yards.
I still can’t understand how Mike can most of the time split the uprights from around 50 yards, but on a kickoff, kick it out of bounds. You can’t give an explosive offense like Northwestern a first down on their own 40.
The kickoff coverage was jacked up with B.J. Lowery in the mix. B.J. broke his wrist in fall camp and is back with a vengeance.
Eric Guthrie had three punts for a 40-yard average and Jordan Bernstine had a couple of nice kickoff returns.
“Considering our injuries I’m proud of the guys, the way they fought and gave great effort out there,” said coach Ferentz. “We went with what we had, we were a little bit thin, but the guys competed and nothing’s easy when you play Northwestern.”
The Hawks go into their homecoming game with Indiana sitting at 4-2, 1-1 in the Big Ten.
It was an emotional win against the Wildcats.
Iowa had to hold on to an 18-13 win last year at Bloomington.
Hopefully the Kinnick magic will come through again.