Rapid Recap: Northwestern 14, No. 21 Iowa 10


Noah Frick-Alofs/Daily Senior Staffer

Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson looks downfield while the Iowa defense closes in. A huge touchdown pass to Ben Skowronek lifted NU to a 14-10 victory.

Jonah Dylan, Managing Editor


IOWA CITY, Iowa — Northwestern is going to the Big Ten Championship Game.

It wasn’t always easy, and it definitely wasn’t pretty, but the Wildcats (6-4, 6-1 Big Ten) made enough plays to beat Iowa (6-4, 3-4) on a frigid afternoon in Iowa City. And with Wisconsin and Purdue losing earlier in the day, NU clinched the Big Ten West with two games still to play.

Neither team could get anything going in the first half, and the game quickly developed into a battle for field position. Senior punter Jake Collins pinned the Hawkeyes deep time and time again, but NU couldn’t capitalize.

A promising drive at the end of the second quarter ended with an Iowa field goal, and the Hawkeyes went into the break with a 3-0 lead.

NU’s opening drive of the second half ended with a Clayton Thorson interception. But the Cats finally broke through on their next drive, and Isaiah Bowser scored from 34 yards out to give NU the first touchdown of the game.

After another Thorson interception, Iowa finally capitalized. Nate Stanley found Ihmir Smith-Marsette for a 28-yard score to give the Hawkeyes the lead back with 4:27 to go in the third quarter.

NU stormed back, and Thorson hit junior receiver Ben Skowronek for a 32-yard highlight reel score to put NU back in front with under 11 minutes to go.

The Hawkeyes had multiple chances to answer but fumbled on two consecutive drives, and NU was able to run the clock out on Iowa’s Big Ten hopes.

1. In a crazy season, the Cats are going to the Big Ten title game. Wisconsin lost to Penn State earlier Saturday, and Purdue got destroyed by Minnesota. Even though NU still has two games remaining, the Big Ten West race is over. It’s a startling situation for a team that lost three of four to start the season and finished nonconference play winless, but NU is undefeated on the road and has gone 13-1 in its last 14 conference games. So let’s repeat this: Northwestern, for the first time ever, will play in the Big Ten Championship Game.

2. On a freezing day in Iowa City, NU made just enough plays to win. NU gained just 75 yards in the first half, and the pass offense was dormant throughout most of the day. But Thorson — who entered the fourth quarter with just 88 passing yards — connected with Skowronek for a 32-yard touchdown to give NU the lead for good. Freshman running back Isaiah Bowser had another impressive game, tallying 165 yards on 31 carries. Though the passing game has struggled for four straight weeks, Bowser has emerged as a bell-cow back for the Cats.

3. NU’s best player might have been its punter. Jake Collins was all over the place on Saturday as kickers Charlie Kuhbander and Drew Luckenbaugh battled injuries. Collins — who handled punts, kickoffs and field goals — made a big tackle on the game’s opening kickoff, then was instrumental at pinning the Hawkeyes deep in the first half. He made two extra points, but missed a field goal in his first career attempt. Overall, though, his ability to control the game through punts was huge for NU, especially in the first half.

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