Northwestern falls to Iowa in overtime in 4th straight loss

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Northwestern falls to Iowa in overtime in 4th straight loss

Senior quarterback Kain Colter pitches the ball on an option play. Colter threw for 104 yards and ran for 60 more in Northwestern's 17-10 loss to Iowa on Saturday.

Senior quarterback Kain Colter pitches the ball on an option play. Colter threw for 104 yards and ran for 60 more in Northwestern's 17-10 loss to Iowa on Saturday.

Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Senior quarterback Kain Colter pitches the ball on an option play. Colter threw for 104 yards and ran for 60 more in Northwestern's 17-10 loss to Iowa on Saturday.

Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Senior quarterback Kain Colter pitches the ball on an option play. Colter threw for 104 yards and ran for 60 more in Northwestern's 17-10 loss to Iowa on Saturday.

Rohan Nadkarni, Gameday Editor

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IOWA CITY, Iowa ­— The house of cards Northwestern built its season upon has fallen apart. And when it came time for coach Pat Fitzgerald to push his chips to the center of the table, he folded in a crushing 17-10 overtime loss to Iowa on Saturday.

After a third down stop by the defense with less than a minute to play in the fourth quarter, Fitzgerald elected not to use one of his two timeouts to stop the clock and give the ball back to his offense. Instead, the defense stopped the Hawkeyes again on fourth down, and the Cats took a knee into overtime.

“We were playing to win the game. We wanted to see what happens,” Fitzgerald said. “We got a third down stop, and they were kicking into the wind, so you knew they were going to have to go for it. It’s a catch-22.”

In the extra session, Iowa scored on its first possession, and then NU turned the ball over on downs to end the game.

The puzzling decision by Fitzgerald compounded another game of offensive ineptitude and a surprising number of penalties. The Cats managed only 10 points, their third straight game with fewer than 20.

NU also committed five penalties for 55 yards, none worse than sophomore superback Dan Vitale’s 15-yard illegal blocking penalty late in the fourth quarter. Vitale’s penalty erased a first down deep in Iowa territory, and it ended the team’s last scoring chance in regulation.

A play after the penalty, senior running back Mike Trumpy fumbled a pitch on an option, giving the Hawkeyes the ball near midfield. The two plays killed an offense that had finally found a rhythm.

“The two plays were inexcusable,” Fitzgerald said. “I mean do your job and don’t get penalties. That was big time hurt. You just can’t do that, especially after the quarterback has already run by the guy.”

The Cats’ first turnover also halted a legitimate opportunity to score. Trumpy fumbled in Iowa territory in the first half as NU drove downfield, trailing 10-0.

Senior quarterback Kain Colter returned after missing last week’s game because of an ankle injury and played admirably. Junior quarterback Trevor Siemian only saw action midway through the fourth after Colter left briefly with a knee injury.

“I thought (Colter) played his tail off,” Fitzgerald said. “I thought he played like a warrior. He was out there running around trying to make every play he possibly could.”

Colter ran valiantly on his hurt ankle, frequently fighting off defensive linemen that attacked a porous NU offensive line. Colter was limping again as he walked up to the podium after the game.

“Every game you’re going to come out with some bumps and bruises,” Colter said. “There’s going to be lingering effects until it heals 100 percent. It’s just part of the game, especially at this point in the season.”

The offensive line continued its struggles in Big Ten play. Fitzgerald grew tired of the inconsistency, switching sophomore Matt Frazier in for redshirt freshman Ian Park at right guard in the second quarter. On the Cats’ very last play, Colter couldn’t escape pressure and took a sack, Iowa’s sixth.

The offense finished the game with 329 total yards. Colter accounted for 104 of the yards passing and 60 rushing but wasn’t satisfied after the loss.

“We suck right now,” Colter said. “We shot ourselves in the foot with penalties and turnovers. That’s a recipe for disaster.”

The defense remained a bright spot for the second straight week, shutting out the Hawkeyes in the second half of regulation. After Iowa scored on its first drive, rushing for 65 yards alone on its initial series, the Cats surrendered only a field goal in the rest of regulation.

Junior linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo had an especially big game. He made multiple big stops on third down, and his interception with less than 15 seconds to go in the fourth saved NU from potentially losing in regulation.

“Everybody just realized we need to fit our gaps and be physical,” Ariguzo said. “(We just did) our job.”

While the Hawkeyes slowed in the second half, the Cats’ offense finally showed signs of life.

NU scored all 10 of its points in the second stanza. Colter found Vitale twice on a third-quarter drive that resulted in a touchdown. First, Vitale reeled in a 31-yard catch along the sideline. Then Colter hit the superback wide open in the end zone on a play-action fake.

Siemian finished the drive that led to NU’s second score. Colter limped off the field after running for a first down on third-and-seven. Senior kicker Jeff Budzien’s kick tied the game at 10 with nine minutes and nine seconds left in the fourth, and it ended up being the Cats’ last highlight in their fourth-straight loss.

“My job is on the line,” Fitzgerald said. “Every game is critically important, so I’m not very happy right now.”

Email: rohannadkarni2015@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @Rohan_NU

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