Rapid reaction: Iowa 48, Northwestern 7

Joseph Diebold, Assistant Gameday Editor

Iowa City, IOWA — Northwestern turned in a listless performance Saturday at Kinnick Stadium, falling 48-7 to Iowa in the Wildcats’ worst loss in almost four years.

Senior quarterback Trevor Siemian was finally replaced, though it remains to be seen whether coach Pat Fitzgerald will make the move permanent. It was clear Saturday that the passing game’s problems will not be solved simply by a quarterback change, as the offensive line, wide receivers and quarterbacks all played a role in NU’s inability to move the ball through the air. Junior quarterback Zack Oliver went just 1-of-6 for 7 yards in his garbage time work.

It was the latest in a worrying trend for Fitzgerald, who has now amassed a measly 1-7 record coming off bye weeks as the Wildcats’ coach. The Cats looked unprepared early on offense, defense and special teams, giving up a long kickoff return to start the game and a long flea-flicker in the first quarter.

Justin Jackson was once again a lone bright spot for NU, though he came just short of extending his streak of 100-yard rushing games to four, finishing with 24 carries for 96 yards and a touchdown.

After losing their third consecutive game and falling to 3-5 overall, 2-3 in the Big Ten, the Cats will look to get back on track next week as Michigan visits Ryan Field.

What it means:

As far as reaching bowl eligibility, this was NU’s margin for error game. The Cats are essentially guaranteed to lose at Notre Dame, and NU will now need to win its three other Big Ten games to get to six wins. It’s not impossible, but it’s a tall hill to climb given how the Cats have played since upset wins over Penn State and Wisconsin.

But even if NU manages to salvage a 6-6 record out of the season, it’s clear from the last three weeks the program has to make bigger changes if it is honest about its stated goal of competing for Big Ten championships. Looking this unprepared after a bye week is borderline inexcusable.

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