PISCATAWAY, N.J. — One turnover and one big play prevented a massive upset at High Point Solutions Stadium on Saturday.
Iowa (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) running back Akrum Wadley scored the game-winning touchdown with 8:35 left in the game to win 14-7. Wadley’s 26-yard burst was one play after Iowa safety Brandon Snyder forced and recovered a fumble at the Rutgers’ 21.
Here are five things we learned about the game:
1. Josey Jewell is Iowa’s defensive superhero
Jewell finished with 12 tackles, but had a part in all four plays in a goal-line stand late in the second quarter to prevent a Rutgers score. Eight of his tackles were solo hits. He was aggressive and active, just the player Iowa needs him to be.
2. Run defense still an issue
Iowa gave up 193 yards on the ground, one week after giving up 239 in a loss to North Dakota State and 158 earlier this season to Miami of Ohio. This clearly isn’t Iowa’s forte, which is odd considering its pedigree. It will be challenged each and every week coming up.
3. George Kittle is a weapon
Kittle twice came up big on Iowa’s second-quarter touchdown drive, catching two passes for 52 yards. On his 36-yard touchdown catch, he lined up outside the tackle and ran a wheel route and was open down the left sideline. Beathard found Kittle, who evaded multiple tacklers inside the 10-yard line and stretched over the goal line for a touchdown.
Kittle caught five passes for 110 yards last week.
4. Bend defense nearly broke in the fourth quarter
Iowa had its chance to stomp out Rutgers’ hopes late in the third quarter or early in the fourth. Rutgers was backed up on its 12 after an Iowa punt. The Scarlet Knights then put together a 13-play, 88-yard drive — both season highs — and converted a pair of third downs. The final play was a 15-yard strike from Chris Laviano to Andre Patton against Iowa’s Raider package to tie the game at 7-7 .
Then with a 14-7 lead, Iowa’s defense allowed Rutgers to drive from its 25 to the Iowa 17 before stopping the Scarlet Knights on fourth down.
5. Cursed start of second half
For the second consecutive week, Iowa opened the second half with a tremendous play only to have it called back. Saturday, Iowa running back LeShun Daniels burst down the left side for a 75-yard touchdown run. It was called back because of a block below the waist by right tackle Ike Boettger. Iowa later punted on the drive.
Last week on the first play of the second half, Daniels had a 62-yard run to the North Dakota State 3-yard line called back because of a holding penalty. Iowa also failed to score on that possession.
Iowa produced just 34 yards rushing last week but bounced back with 193 yards on the ground. The Hawkeyes averaged 5.1 yards per carry. Both Wadley and Daniels rushed for 77 or more yards.
Iowa’s wide receivers struggled to get separation. Multiple times, Beathard had to tuck the ball and run or throw the ball away because nobody was open. This has been a perpetual problem over the last several seasons.
Iowa’s 99-yard drive for a touchdown in the first half was the longest since the 2015 opener against Illinois State.
What it means
Iowa’s loss last week to North Dakota State stripped the program of all momentum. With Wisconsin blowing past Michigan State 30-6 and into the top 10, the Badgers replace Iowa as the West Division favorite. Now the Hawkeyes are sucking wind just staying in the race. But getting this win was an exhale, especially with long-time rivals Northwestern and Minnesota on deck.