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A play-by-play of Northwestern's frightening late letdown

by Jonah Rosenblum (@jonahlrosenblum)

Here ensues a drive-by-drive summary of how Iowa threatened Northwestern in the second half, but the Wildcats ultimately held on for the win.

Iowa began the second half with two consecutive Damon Bullock rushes, which netted a combined five yards. Northwestern failed to muster any pressure early on third-and-five, but when he stepped forward in the pocket, he stepped into the hornet's nest, and was brought down for a loss of three. Northwestern then easily blocked Iowa's punt, as Tyris Jones was right in front of the Hawkeyes punter before he even wound up to kick. Kain Colter followed with a beautiful winding run for the touchdown. Realizing the right was sealed off, Colter did a State Farm double take and zigzagged left into the end zone.


After fellow Inside Northwestern writer Kevin Trahan bemoaned Steve Flaherty's inability to launch a kickoff deep early in the game, an angry Flaherty responded with his second straight kick into the end zone. A dropped pass and a short run up the middle brought up third-and-five for Iowa. On third-and-five, Vandenberg threw it right through the uprights, and by uprights, I mean Proby's upright arms. Proby nearly caught it; instead, the ball deflected off of his hand and bounced harmlessly to the ground.

An option and a keeper failed to net much for Northwestern, as Colter had a hard time corralling the snap on first down, thus slowing down his option right. On third down, Colter found the long-hidden Demetrius Fields on the left sideline on a really smooth play for the first down. Then, Colter found Christian Jones on a beautifully thrown ball down the field. Jones was well covered, but the toss caught him perfectly in stride, and Jones stopped beautifully upon catching it to throw off his defender and then ran the remaining five yards into the end zone around the fallen defender.


Iowa converted another third down on a nice throw over the middle to Keenan Davis. Until, the referees ruled that the ball bounced in to Davis on further review, forcing the Hawkeyes to punt. Venric Mark kept the good vibrations going for Northwestern with a nice 11-yard run around the right end. Kyle Prater was reintegrated in the offense later on in the drive, picking up six yards on third-and-nine. The Wildcats chose to go for it on fourth-and-three, and Kain Colter optioned it late to Venric Mark who then, seeing his path forward clogged, tried to shovel it up the sideline. It was ruled a forward fumble and Iowa took over on its own 41.

Vandenberg began with another pass to a wide-open receiver along the sideline, finding Tevaun Smith for a first down. Damon Bullock followed with a powerful run around the right end. Bullock then found a huge hole up the middle for another first down. Bullock then ran to the left for an easy seven-yard gain. Iowa continued to have a lot of success running the ball, moving into Northwestern's red zone. Vandenberg then showed gorgeous touch, rolling right and firing it to Kevonte Martin-Manley right before he crossed the sideline. Vandenberg tried to find Martin-Manley again in the end zone, but unfortunately, a stepladder wasn't immediately on hand, bringing up second-and-six. Vandenberg atoned with a strong plummet up the gut to bring Iowa within 28-10, propelled by a great push forward from his line.

Kain Colter timed the option beautifully again at the start of the fourth quarter, absorbing a huge hit, and pitching it left in time to propel Venric Mark 10 yards for a first down. Mark then ran around the left end for another first down. Colter continued to scamper around the pocket very successfully in Iowa territory, turning a second-and-14 into a third-and-five. Colter then cut left across the field for an 11-yard gain. Mark then pumped his legs rapidly around the left end for a 10-yard gain. The Iowa defense continued to show absolutely no ability to slow Northwestern down. Venric Mark then cut left through a pack of defenders for a 12-yard gain, putting the Wildcats on the threshold. On the next snap, center Brandon Vitabile sent the ball a little high, and Colter couldn't handle it on his leap. He also couldn't handle the ersatz bounce when he pounced on the fumble, and so Iowa recovered it on its own 15.

Northwestern did a nice job of pouncing on Iowa's receivers on the Hawkeyes' next drive, limiting their yards after catch effectively. Vandenberg managed to convert third downs for Iowa, easily his best down of the game, finding tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz in the slot for a tight first down. Vandenberg then tried two deep passes downfield. Neither was very good, but the second one drew a questionable pass interference on safety Ibraheim Campbell, even though the pass appeared to simply hit Campbell in the backside, with no major interference involved. Vandenberg then escaped a sack to throw a first down to Jacob Hillyer. Quentin Williams was then flagged on an idiotic roughing the passer call, in which he shoved Vandenberg down well after he had released the ball. Vandenberg capped off the drive with a keeper up the middle.

Iowa quickly forced a three-and-out, aggressively wrapping Colter up on third-and-long, forcing a Northwestern punt. Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes continued to thrive on third down, escaping a third-and-three with a pass to Martin-Manley on the right sideline. Vandenberg then had Martin-Manley slanting across the field, but he overthrew it. Finally, Iowa was stopped when Vandenberg went short and in the slot on third down, and then threw way wide on fourth-and-two, to turn it over on downs with fewer than two minutes remaining.