Rapid Reaction: Iowa outslugs Wisconsin in defensive struggle
Two teams with a Big Ten rivalry dating to 1894 put on an old-school kind of defensive show on Saturday.
Or, if you hate that kind of game, you might feel that Iowa and Wisconsin merely set the game back 100-plus years.
The Hawkeyes (6-2) beat the Badgers 28-7 at Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium on a blustery, snowy day in Iowa City. Ihmir Smith-Marsette had two touchdown catches for Iowa, which has won 6 in a row. It was the B1G regular-season finale for both teams.
After Wisconsin drew within 14-7, Spencer Petras hit Smith-Marsette for a 53-yard score to put Iowa ahead 21-7 late in the third quarter. But the senior receiver appeared to hurt his left ankle flipping into the end zone at the end of the play; he didn’t return in the game.
A long Wisconsin drive after that went for naught as the Hawkeyes stopped the Badgers on fourth down. Then the Badgers drove deep into Iowa territory again until Hawkeyes linebacker Jack Campbell intercepted Graham Mertz on fourth down with 4:23 left in the fourth quarter.
On the next play, the Hawkeyes sealed it when Tyrone Goodson ran 80 yards for a touchdown.
After doing pretty much nothing on offense in the first half (66 yards), Wisconsin gained 46 yards on 9 plays on the first drive of the second half, only to waste the opportunity when Collin Larsh was short on a 47-yard field goal try.
On the ensuing Hawkeyes drive, Petras completed a 38-yard pass to Smith-Marsette in tight space. That tandem connected again three plays later for a 19-yard score. Iowa converted a 2-point try for a 14-0 lead. Petras, a sophomore first-year starter, was 3-of-4 for 71 yards plus the 2-point play on that drive.
Nakia Watson later scored for Wisconsin on a 1-yard run, with the TD capping a drive set up when Iowa’s Charlie Jones muffed a punt and Wisconsin’s long snapper, Adam Bay, recovered. That 25-yard drive was the first Badgers touchdown in a span of 34 possessions, going back four games.
Iowa’s Nick Niemann recovered a Badgers fumble deep in Wisconsin territory in the first quarter, setting up Keith Duncan’s 30-yard field goal for a 3-0 Hawkeyes lead. Duncan also made a 45-yarder that bounced off the right upright with 2 seconds left in the second quarter.
Wisconsin (2-3) had 25 yards in its first four drives combined. Mertz completed just 2 of his first 7 passes for 10 yards. The first-half drive chart for Wisconsin was nightmarish: Fumble, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, turnover on downs, end half.
Iowa wasn’t much better in the first 30 minutes, though the six points looked huge in comparison: Punt, field goal, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, field goal.
Wisconsin came into Saturday having scored just 7 points against Northwestern, then 6 against Indiana in its previous two games. The Badgers have not been held to single-digit scoring in 3 consecutive games since 1990, Barry Alvarez’s first season as coach, when Wisconsin finished 1-10.
The Badgers were short-handed among their skill players, missing three key ones. Wide receivers Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor were out, as was running back Jalen Berger.