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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern blanked 20-0 by Iowa

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Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse...

NCAA Football: Iowa at Northwestern Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

EVANSTON — The 2019 season’s narrative continued for the Wildcats (1-6, 0-5 B1G) as Northwestern’s offense could not produce yet again in a rainy shutout loss to Iowa.

Aidan Smith failed to put together a touchdown drive for the ninth quarter in a row. The junior quarterback finished the day 18-of-32 for 138 yards and an interception. Alongside Smith, a struggling offensive line, receiving corps and running back unit added to Northwestern’s offensive woes. The offense averaged an atrocious three yards per play on the contest.

The Wildcats relied on the defense to keep the game close for as long as they could. Blake Gallagher led the team with 10 tackles, and Greg Newsome II had himself a standout day as well with nine tackles and two pass breakups.

Northwestern opened the game with another rocky start. After almost throwing an interception on his first pass of the game, Smith threw a pick just one play later, handing the Hawkeyes the ball on the Northwestern 21 yard line. However, the NU defense held its ground, and a sack from Joe Gaziano led to a missed Iowa field goal.

Northwestern’s defense could only hold up for so long, however. Midway through the first, the defense suffered a consequential mental lapse and gave up a 50-yard touchdown on third and 10. Missed tackles from the Wildcats gave Tyrone Tracey Jr. a clear route to the endzone, giving the Hawkeyes the 7-0 lead.

To add to Northwestern’s troubles, JJ Jefferson was helped off the field late in the first with a lower body injury. He was ruled out for the remainder of the game. At the time of the injury, Jefferson had the only two receptions of the game for Northwestern.

In the second quarter, Iowa put together a 15 play, 57-yard drive, ending with a 40-yard field goal from Keith Duncan. Northwestern’s defense seemed to have stopped the Hawkeyes in their own territory, but a defensive pass interference penalty on Greg Newsome II extended the drive and set up the field goal.

Iowa maintained its momentum in the second half. The Hawkeyes capitalized on a fourth down stop with a 13-play, 59-yard drive that resulted in a 1-yard touchdown run from Mehki Sargent. The touchdown gave Iowa a 17-0 at the end of the third.

The Hawkeyes extended their lead to 20 midway through the third off a 28-yard Duncan field goal, and a fourth down stop on the ensuing NU drive put to rest any possible hope ‘Cats fans had. Hunter Johnson never entered the game.

The first shutout that they have suffered since 2015’s debacle against Michigan leaves Northwestern at a new low heading into the final month of the season, needing to somehow win out to achieve a .500 or better finish.