IOWA CITY — Iowa blew a seven-point second-half lead in a 38-31 loss to Northwestern on Saturday afternoon at Kinnick Stadium.
Early in the second quarter, Northwestern led Iowa 17-7. The Hawkeyes rallied to lead 24-17 before Northwestern scored three straight touchdowns to put the game out of reach.
Northwestern (2-3, 1-1 Big Ten) outrushed Iowa 198-79. The Wildcats’ victory ends a three-year losing streak to the Hawkeyes (3-2, 1-1).
Justin Jackson ran for 171 yards for the Wildcats.
Five things learned
- Free agency isn’t possible in college football during the season, but Iowa might want to consider making changes at safety. Both Miles Taylor and Brandon Snyder struggled all game and both whiffed on tackles leading to big Northwestern touchdowns. Taylor completely was outclassed by Northwestern’s Justin Jackson on a 58-yard run for a touchdown. One series later, Northwestern wide receiver Austin Carr hauled in a 25-yard strike and scored because Snyder missed a tackle. Maybe they’re Iowa’s best players at that position, but both have struggled this year, and on Saturday in particular.
- In Iowa’s main big play in the first half, the Hawkeyes faced third-and-4 at Northwestern’s 28. Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard attempted a screen pass, but running back Akrum Wadley was covered. Beathard instead threw off his back foot toward wide receiver Jay Scheel, who leaped over defender Montre Hartage and hauled in the pass to the Northwestern 6. Iowa scored a play later to cut its deficit to 17-14.
- Iowa can’t protect C.J. Beathard. Northwestern sacked Beathard six times with defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo picking up four. Both tackles struggled to keep Beathard upright. A few times he didn’t get rid of the ball fast enough, but mostly he didn’t have a chance to throw it.
- Northwestern junior linebacker Brett Walsh left the game on a stretcher after covering a kickoff with 6:08 left in the third quarter. He was down for more than 10 minutes and was carted off the field. Initially Walsh was on the ground motionless, then as he left the field he gave a thumbs up. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald and Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz gave each other a quick embrace while Walsh was down.
- Big Ten officiating needs a re-evaluation. In a second quarter play that didn’t determine the game’s outcome, Northwestern linebacker Joe Jones face-guarded then crashed into Iowa wide receiver Jay Scheel with the ball in flight. The head linesman completely whiffed on the call. Then, Iowa gets hit with a sideline warning for arguing about it. In the third quarter, quarterback C.J. Beathard was pulled down by his face mask during a sack without a call. Iowa failed to keep its cool and was hit with its own face mask and unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, resulting in 30 yards.
— Dan Vargason (@DVargason) October 1, 2016
Midway through the third quarter, Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson found Austin Carr in the end zone for a touchdown to knot the score 24-24. The play was on third-and-8 from Iowa’s 16. The touchdown stunted Iowa’s momentum and put the Wildcats in control.
More like “ongoing.” Iowa struggled to stop the run in the first half, giving up 87 yards on 22 carries. It got progressively worse in the second half and Northwestern finished with 198 yards rushing. The Hawkeyes gave up more than 150 yards for the fourth time in five games this year. Last year the Hawkeyes allowed just 121 yards per game. That’s the difference this year between being unbeaten … and not.
Iowa wide receiver Riley McCarron stepped into Matt VandeBerg’s role quite nicely with catches all over the field. McCarron caught short quick screen passes, slants and deep routes. By mid-fourth quarter, McCarron had seven catches for 72 yards and a score.
By late in the fourth quarter, Northwestern had one penalty for 5 yards. Iowa had six for 70. There were a few misses by the officiating crew.
What in means
For all purposes, Iowa is now out of Big Ten West race. The Hawkeyes have an almost certain loss to Michigan awaiting, plus games against Minnesota, Wisconsin and Nebraska. Time to start dreaming of the Music City Bowl.