Big Plays Lead Iowa Past Northwestern
Oct. 15, 2011
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The numbers didn't add up -- Northwestern out gained Iowa, 495-379, it converted 16-of-22 third down attempts and racked up over 38 minutes in time of possession, but the Hawkeyes used big plays in timely situations to down the Wildcats, 41-31, on Saturday night inside a black and gold striped Kinnick Stadium.
Seventeens were wild over the first three quarters. The Hawkeyes stormed out to a 17-0 lead in the first half; the Wildcats reeled off 17 points to tie the game late in the third quarter, and Iowa followed with the next 17 points to take a 34-17 lead. The teams then combined for 24 points over the final eight minutes.
"We're thrilled to get the victory tonight, we knew it wouldn't come easy, and it certainly didn't," said UI head coach Kirk Ferentz. "We had to work for everything we got, but it was an excellent football game."
Junior quarterback James Vandenberg finished 14-of-22 for 224 yards with two touchdowns. Sophomore Marcus Coker had 22 carries for 124 yards with two scores, and wide receivers Keenan Davis and Marvin McNutt, Jr., combined for 11 catches for 196 yards and two touchdowns.
Davis had five catches for 109 yards, while McNutt had six grabs for 87 yards. McNutt's fourth quarter touchdown reception gave Iowa the 31-17 lead, and the catch was his 21st career touchdown reception, tying him with Tim Dwight and Danan Hughes for the school record.
Senior Tyler Nielsen paced the UI defense with 12 tackles while filling in for an injured James Morris at the middle linebacker position. Junior Micah Hyde and sophomore Christian Kirksey finished with nine tackles apiece, while Hyde also tallied two pass break-ups.
After going into the half trailing 17-7, Northwestern scored the first 10 points of the second half to eliminate its deficit. The Wildcats used a 12-play, 68-yard drive on its opening possession to cut the deficit to a field goal. Wildcat running back Adonis Smith found the end zone with a 4-yard touchdown run.
Following a quick three and out by the Hawkeye offense, Northwestern drove 40 yards to the Iowa 30-yard line behind four completions by quarterback Dan Persa. The UI defense managed a hold on a third and one when senior Mike Daniels stopped quarterback Kain Colter for no gain, forcing the Wildcats to settle for Jeff Budzien's 47-yard field goal.
The Hawkeyes went back to its roots on the following possession, riding Coker and McNutt on an 11-play, 64-yard drive. Coker bulled his way five, four and three yards to open the drive before Vandenberg hit McNutt on a 12-yard completion on a play-action pass.
After a 1-yard Coker rush, McNutt had a 16-yard reception before the Hawkeyes called Coker's number on the next five plays, which included a 1-yard plunge to put Iowa back on top.
The Wildcats wide-open spread attack continued causing the Hawkeyes trouble, but Iowa caught a break on an NU miscue. On third and five from the 23, Iowa stretched the Wildcats wide on an option attack, where Colter had an errant pitch out of bounds for a 6-yard loss. Budzien missed his field goal try from 47 yards, giving the Hawkeyes the ball at the 29.
Iowa needed just three plays before finding the end zone. Davis caught an 18-yarder to open the drive before Coker bulled his way up the middle for 13 to the Northwestern 40. On the following play, Vandenberg lofted a pass to a wide-open McNutt for a 35-yard scoring strike, making the score 31-17.
The Iowa defense set up Iowa's next scoring drive when it recovered a Persa fumble on the NU 20-yardline. On second and 15, Broderick Binns leveled Persa, forcing him to put the ball on the ground, where an opportunistic Steve Bigach jumped on the pigskin. The Hawkeyes went backwards on their offensive drive, but Mike Meyer made it a three possession game with a 40-yard field goal.
The Wildcats wouldn't go away, as they used a quick strike offense to cut the margin to 34-24. Colter's 18-yard touchdown pass to Drake Dunsmore completed a seven play, 94 yard drive that took just 1:59.
McNutt quickly put the Hawkeyes in scoring position when he snared NU's onside kick attempt out of mid-air and returned it 14 yards to the 24-yard line. Iowa ran the ball five straight times before Coker found the end zone with a 1-yard attempt.
The Wildcats quick strike ability showed again, as the squad covered 59 yards over seven plays. Trevor Siemian -- NU's third string quarterback -- found Rashad Lawrence for a 35-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline with 2:34 remaining. Iowa put the game in the books when McNutt produced again, recovering NU's onside kick at the 44-yard line.
The Hawkeyes showed precision in their opening drive, moving the ball 52 yards on nine plays before Mike Meyer's 27-yard field goal gave the team a 3-0 lead. Vandenberg completed his first four passes of the game to three different receivers, but he missed McNutt on a post in the end zone on first and 10 from the 19.
On NU's second possession, Persa used a series of short completions to move the ball down field into the red zone. On first and 10 from the 17, Binns pressured Persa, but the Wildcat quarterback as able to slip out of the sack. With Binns still on his ankles and Bigach closing in, Persa floated a pass toward the end zone where Iowa safety Tanner Miller intercepted it at the 2-yardline.
Miller returned the pick 98-yards down the right sideline for the touchdown with Micah Hyde leading the way. The 98-yard interception return ties Adam Shada (Purdue, 2006) for the longest in school history.
The Hawkeyes' third scoring drive was a quick one. After a holding call on first and 10, Coker rushed four yards up the middle to the 22-yardline. Vandenberg then found Keenan Davis on consecutive plays -- a 30-yard gain on a play-action pass and a 47-yard touchdown strike.
Northwestern responded, using a methodical 13-play, 65-yard drive to cut the deficit to 17-7. The Wildcats used their rushing attack to move the ball down field, running nine times for 52 yards. Persa found Jeremy Ebert on an underneath route for a 6-yard touchdown pass with 3:54 remaining in the half.
The Hawkeyes (4-2, 1-1) returns to action Saturday, hosting Indiana at 11 a.m.