Football: Wildcats flounder against Hawkeyes in worst performance of the season


Nathan Richards/Daily Senior Staffer

Kyle Prater fumbles the ball late in the first half. Prater’s bobble, which led to an Iowa touchdown, was one of a slew of Northwestern miscues en route to a 38-7 halftime deficit and a 48-7 defeat at the hands of the Hawkeyes.

Bobby Pillote, Assistant Sports Editor

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Northwestern’s season is officially circling the drain.

The Wildcats (3-5, 2-3 Big Ten) were summarily defeated 48-7 by the Iowa Hawkeyes (6-2, 3-1) in a game that was never even close. With the loss, NU must now win three of its remaining four games to become bowl eligible.

“I’m incredibly disappointed with our play today,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “It starts with me, it starts with our staff. We have to look at things we can do better.”

After collapsing two weeks ago in the second half against Nebraska, the Cats’ defense got off to a poor start and allowed the Hawkeyes to score three touchdowns and a field goal on their first four possessions.

“We were confident,” junior safety Traveon Henry said. “But after that first drive we didn’t respond well and it was a snowball effect.”

The score was 24-0 by the end of the first quarter, and NU’s offense was never able to come up with a response. Its lone score came after an Iowa bobbled punt set up an 18-yard field. The Cats handed off four times to reach the end zone.

Such commitment to the ground game was necessary thanks to another poor showing from senior quarterback Trevor Siemian. Allegedly healthy after dealing with an ankle injury since NU’s Sept. 6 loss to Northern Illinois, Siemian didn’t look any more mobile or aware in the pocket than he had in previous games and took three first-half sacks.

He completed just 4-of-11 first-half passes for only 28 yards. Epitomizing the frustration of the offense, Siemian’s longest completion of the half, a 14-yard catch-and-run, was subsequently fumbled by senior receiver Kyle Prater to set up an easy Hawkeyes’ touchdown at the end of the second quarter.

“Just really wasn’t any rhythm,” Siemian said, “especially early.”

Iowa’s offensive domination was complete. The Hawkeyes ran effectively, with running back Mark Weisman carrying 20 times for 94 yards and three touchdowns. Backup Akrum Wadley spelled him in the second half, adding 106 yards and a touchdown of his own.

With the Cats forced to stuff the box, Iowa gladly went to the air.

“When you can’t stop the run against Iowa, they’re deadly,” Fitzgerald said. “They can get the play-action passing game going.”

Hawkeyes quarterback Jake Rudock finished 12-of-19 for 239 yards and a touchdown,including completions of 42, 31 and 26 yards. One of those came on a flea-flicker, in which an Iowa receiver snuck behind both NU safeties.

“They have some fast receivers,” redshirt freshman safety Godwin Igwebuike said. “(The defensive backs) just didn’t come out and do what we could’ve done.”

The Cats were unable to make up ground in the second half, much less come back and win the game. Siemian remained the starting quarterback through the third quarter and finished 8-of-18 for 68 yards with five sacks, turning in his worst statistical performance of the season.

Junior Zack Oliver replaced the maligned senior in the fourth quarter but wasn’t much help in the already out-of-hand game, completing just one pass for seven yards.

Freshman running back Justin Jackson remained the lone bright spot, shouldering the offense by carrying 24 times for 96 yards and a touchdown.

The final stats were as ugly as the final score line for NU. The Cats had just 180 offensive yards on 67 plays and punted eight times. Meanwhile, the defense surrendered 483 total yards and allowed Iowa to convert eight of 14 third downs.

The loss was the worst for the Cats since a 70-23 blowout at the hands of Wisconsin on Nov. 27, 2010. NU has four games remaining, at home against Michigan and Illinois and on the road against Notre Dame and Purdue, to try to salvage its season.

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