IOWA CITY, Iowa — In a slugfest against border rival Wisconsin, Iowa couldn’t mount enough offense to keep pace in a 17-9 defeat at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday.
The Hawkeyes (5-3, 3-2 Big Ten) were outgained 423-236 by the Badgers (5-2, 2-2 Big Ten). It was the 90th meeting between the teams, and Wisconsin now leads 45-43-2.
It’s Iowa’s third home loss this season and first trophy game defeat after six consecutive victories.
Five things we learned from today’s game
- Despite a valiant effort from its defense, Iowa couldn’t overcome its anemic offense. The Hawkeyes were a dreadful 2-for-13 in third-down opportunities. Wisconsin obviously has something to do with it, but mostly it’s Iowa’s receiving corps failing to gain separation. No matter how decent the rushing attack, Iowa needs to pass to win. It doesn’t have the receivers to do it this year.
- Iowa continues to struggle tackling in space at the second and third levels. In the first half alone, free safety Brandon Snyder missed two open-field tackles. He was joined in that category by strong safety Miles Taylor, cornerback Desmond King (a rare tackling mistake for him) and linebacker Bo Bower. Late in the game, facing third-and-1 at his 29, Wisconsin running back Corey Clement broke the tackle of Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell (also rare) and raced 34 yards to help the Badgers kick a field goal and take a vital 11-point lead.
- Penalties continue to be a problem at inopportune times for Iowa. After forcing a Wisconsin punt from its own 6-yard line, Iowa’s Amani Hooker was whistled for holding on a punt that died at the 35. That pushed the Hawkeyes back 10 yards. Then on third-and-1 from the Wisconsin 19, Iowa tight end George Kittle was hit with a false start. On the ensuing play, the Hawkeyes nearly were called for a delay of game penalty and called timeout. It thwarted a slant pass from quarterback C.J. Beathard to Riley McCarron that went for a touchdown. Iowa ultimately kicked a field goal.
- Defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson is a tough out for any offensive lineman. The hulking interior lineman produced 9-yard sacks on consecutive plays to end the third quarter.
- Iowa needs its upcoming off week. Kittle and right tackle Cole Croston played despite injuries and left tackle Boone Myers didn’t dress. Defensive tackle Nathan Bazata was injured in the first half and returned but was not 100 percent.
Despite their problems on offense, the Hawkeyes produced one of their best drives midway through the fourth quarter. Iowa moved from its 20 to the Badgers’ 20. On fourth-and-5, the Hawkeyes elected to try a 38-yard field goal. The kick was no good, which kept Iowa’s deficit at 14-6.
Iowa’s wide receivers combined for eight catches and 59 yards. Those are losing numbers in any era, especially this one. There were drops, but worst of all there was barely any separation. If any position group has cost the Hawkeyes wins and a trip to Indianapolis, it’s this one.
Iowa’s run defense is back to its old ways. The Badgers, who rushed for 236 yards against Ohio State last week, ran for just 167 on 48 carries. Iowa targeted running back Corey Clement, who rushed for 136 yards last week, holding him to just 76 yards in the first three quarters on 24 attempts. he finished with 134 yards after a big fourth quarter.
Iowa significantly lost the battle for time of possession, which was vital in sustaining drives. The Hawkeyes had the ball for just 22 minutes, 58 seconds. Against another ground-acquisition team like Wisconsin, that’s a losing number.
What it means
Iowa now faces a monumental task to reach Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship game. The Hawkeyes are behind the Badgers for the tiebreaker and Nebraska remains unbeaten in league play. Plus Northwestern, which beat Iowa three weeks ago, is one game ahead. It looks like a pre-New Year’s Day bowl game for the Hawkeyes this year.