Rapid Recap: Iowa 33, Northwestern 13


Alyce Brown/The Daily Northwestern

Junior linebacker Bryce Gallagher tackles an Iowa player. Gallagher registered nine tackles against the Hawkeyes in Northwestern’s 33-13 loss on Saturday.

Alex Cervantes, Assistant Sports Editor

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Northwestern’s clash with Iowa on Saturday presented college football fans with the unique opportunity of potentially seeing the game of the year, maybe even of the decade — at least in terms of sickos quality.

The Halloween weekend bout pitted the Wildcats’ (1-7, 1-4 Big Ten) struggling defense against the country’s worst offense in Iowa (4-4, 2-3). Both teams had lost at least three games heading into the contest and combined for just 34 total points the previous weekend. 

What unfolded at Kinnick Stadium was nothing short of a calamity for NU. The Cats were soundly defeated by the Hawkeyes 33-13 as coach Pat Fitzgerald and Chicago’s Big Ten Team remain winless in the United States.

Here are five takeaways from NU’s bout with Iowa:


  1. Petras and Iowa offense dominate the Cats in the opening half

Four drives, four scores tells the story of the Hawkeyes’ first half and NU’s struggles defensively.

Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras, who was benched last week in the team’s 54-10 loss to Ohio State, looked like a different player on Saturday. Petras threw two interceptions and completed just six passes for 49 yards against the Buckeyes. In the opening 30 minutes against the Cats, he was 14-of-18 passing for 140 yards and a touchdown — he ran for a score as well. 

The Hawkeyes came into Saturday’s contest averaging a mere 14 points and almost seven punts per game. Not only did Iowa eclipse that total with time to spare in the second quarter, but they did not punt the ball once in the first half.

To add insult to injury, the Hawkeyes posted 252 yards of total offense in the opening two quarters, 25 more yards than their season average.

  1. Missed tackles once again the Achilles’ heel for the Cats

Dread it, run from it, destiny arrives all the same. NU’s inability to finish tackles this season plagued the team once more against Iowa.

The Cats failed to wrap up Hawkeye receivers and running backs on numerous occasions, resulting in extended drives for an Iowa offense that has looked devoid of life all season. The Hawkeyes capitalized on NU’s blunders, scoring on every drive in the first half and putting up a season-high 33 points. 

Yes, open field tackling is one of the hardest things to do in football, but it is an area that has inhibited the Cats for much of 2022. Fitzgerald has pointed to missed tackling as cause for concern in countless press conferences this year and two months into the season it still bedevils this squad. Whether that comes down to coaching, fundamentals or practice remains to be seen and it has yet to be corrected.

  1. The punter comes, the offense goes

Iowa’s defense inflicted its will upon NU for the entire game, surrendering just two scores on nine drives. 

Led by linebacker Jack Campbell, the Hawkeyes boast one of the top defenses in the country in spite of the team’s offensive shortcomings. Iowa came into the game holding opponents to 104.3 yards rushing and that success carried into the weekend.

NU was due for a Halloween fright, and it came in the form of Campbell and crew. The Cats’ failed to establish the run game behind junior Evan Hull and the rest of the running back corps, recording a net -17 yards rushing in the first half. Sophomore quarterback Brendan Sullivan similarly struggled while facing constant pressure in the backfield, getting sacked seven times on the day, but did complete 23 of his 30 passes for two touchdowns and an interception. 

In what has become a rather frequent sight in 2022, junior punter Luke Akers saw the field often, capping off six of NU’s drives with punts. 

  1. The Cats get on the board courtesy of a big-man touchdown

If it’s any consolation, offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian opened up the playbook amid all the struggles to score one of NU’s more exciting touchdowns of the year.

In the shotgun on fourth-and-goal at Iowa’s 1-yard line, Sullivan faked the handoff to Hull, rolled out right and connected with junior defensive lineman Duke Olges in the end zone. The touchdown was Olges’ first in the purple and white and provided the Cats with a tinge of optimism.

In a game which lived up to its sicko billing, a big-man score was a fitting way for NU to get their first points on the day. 

  1. Up next: the No. 2 Buckeyes on Family Weekend

For those who have either forgotten or decided not to acknowledge it, undefeated No. 2 Ohio State, fresh off a double-digit win over No. 13 Penn State, comes to Ryan Field next Saturday. Needless to say, next weekend’s game is the ultimate matchup between David and Goliath. Except not even a well-placed effort with the slingshot will likely incapacitate these Buckeyes.

Since the Week 1 win over Notre Dame, Ohio State has scored at least 44 points in every contest. Oh, and the Buckeyes also boast one of the most stout defenses in the nation. Quarterback C.J. Stroud is the likely Heisman frontrunner, throwing for over 2,000 yards so far this season with 28 touchdowns and just four interceptions to boot.

ESPN’s FPI has accordingly given Fitzgerald and the Cats a 1.6 percent chance of defeating Ohio State on Nov. 5. Do you believe in miracles?

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @CervantesPAlex 


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