EVANSTON, Ill. – Northwestern’s offense did too little, too late in a 17-12 loss to the No. 22 Iowa Hawkeyes.
The Wildcats (3-6, 1-5 B1G) dropped their third straight game — all of which have been against conference foes — while Iowa (7-2, 4-2 B1G) kept its slim Big Ten West hopes alive.
To open the ballgame, both teams started slowly, posting three-and-outs and combining for 16 yards on eight plays.
On NU’s second drive, Marty called his own number and dashed ahead for 11 yards on first down. After a near interception, the senior quarterback danced free yet again for another gain of 11. However, things went south from there. Marty was slammed down hard on a sack and was pressured on the following two plays, resulting in yet another punt.
Starting from its own 35, Iowa couldn’t capitalize. The Hawkeyes gained nine yards on the ground before electing to punt on fourth-and-1, pinning the Wildcats at their own 10.
Marty first powered his way to a first down before firing a dart outside the numbers to Berkeley Holman, and Robinson used his track speed to pick up 24 yards on a reverse,, giving Northwestern a rare promising drive. But despite their reaching midfield, the ‘Cats’ offense stalled, largely thanks to an intentional grounding call against Marty.
Deep in their own territory, the Hawkeyes were deflated by a Petras pass that skipped low on third-and-2. Unfortunately, the ‘Cats gained zero yards on their next three plays, sending an already fatigued Derek Adams yet again.
With 2:16 left in the first quarter, Kirk Ferentz benched Petras in favor of sophomore Alex Padilla. He delivered right away, connecting with Keagan Johnson for 17 yards. Two plays later, the two tore it up again, with Padilla throwing a beautiful back-shoulder ball to Johnson to get Iowa inside the red zone. Through most of the first quarter, Jim O’Neil’s defense had stopped the run well, but not so on second down, as Goodson followed center Tyler Linderbaum up the middle to punch it in from 13 yards out, putting the Hawkeyes up 7-0. In response, Northwestern turned to the ground game to move the chains. Yet when looking deep to Robinson, Marty was intercepted by Hawkeye linebacker Dane Belton.
Following the pick, NU had Iowa on the ropes before Padilla hit Goodson on a slant for a third down conversion. Afterward, Goodson shot through a vacated left side and raced down the sidelines for 41 yards, and the Hawkeyes eventually got into the end zone yet again, courtesy of an Arland Bruce IV 10-yard jet sweep run.
Northwestern remained woeful on offense before a Marty pass over the middle to Malik Washington injected life into Bajakian’s unit. Washington continued to do the heavy lifting for the offense, catching an eight-yard pass on second down and evading numerous Hawkeyes in the backfield to convert a fourth-and-one. Though the ‘Cats had finally crossed their logo at midfield, and the drive halted after Iowa forced Marty to throw it away on third-and-13.
On the next drive, Iowa started by gaining more chunk yards through the air, but O’Neil’s group regained its footing, stopping the Hawkeyes and forcing a punt attempt — one that Ray Niro III blocked, setting up the ‘Cats at the Iowa nine-yard line.
For most offenses, scoring a touchdown from first-and-goal isn’t an issue. Northwestern isn’t one of those offenses. Two rushes for a total of one yard culminated in Marty missing an open Marshall Lang in the back of the end zone on third down, forcing a Charlie Kuhbander kick that made it 14-3 Hawkeyes.
After the score, Padilla and Johnson maintained their magic, completing a highly contested pass on first down. The Hawkeyes marched inside Northwestern territory but never tacked on any additional points, ending the first half still up by 11.
To begin the third quarter, Padilla drew a pass interference penalty on Cam Mitchell but missed an open Charlie Jones on third down. Northwestern opened the first half the same way it did the second: a three-and-out.
Following a 31-yard punt by Derek Adams, Padilla rolled out and found Bruce IV, who was utterly rocked by Brandon Joseph — a hard hit that was initially called targeting but ultimately overturned. Two plays later, Bruce broke several tackles en route to a 16-yard gain and put Iowa at the Northwestern 24. From there, Bergin, Hampton & Co. applied the clamps and held the Hawkeyes to three, making it 17-3.
On the ensuing kickoff, Niro called for a fair catch but then returned the ball, leading to a penalty and putting NU at its own three-yard line. That wasn’t an issue for Robinson, who ran wild for a 38-yard completion on the next play. After a double reverse that lost eight yards, Marty paired with Washington for 21 yards on fourth-and-6 to put the ‘Cats inside the 10. However, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called on Pat Fitzgerald knocked the wind out of Northwestern’s sails, as the Wildcats settled for three to set the score at 17-6.
Down 11, Fitzgerald rolled the dice with an onside kick that bounded to the sideline untouched, leaving Iowa in Northwestern territory — but the Hawkeyes gained only five yards.
In the fourth quarter, neither offense gained any traction, combining for two punts to open the frame. The Wildcats gained some momentum due to two Iowa pass interference calls, but Marty was intercepted on third-and-4 when looking deep. Somehow, someway, Northwestern meandered its way into Iowa territory due to an explosive catch and run from Hull, but they again trotted off the field without having put any points on the board.
The ‘Cats made things interesting thanks to an Evan Hull 31-yard receiving touchdown with 2:21 left in the fourth, and Fitzgerald’s team had momentum after stopping Gavin Williams and Goodson to get the ball back, but Marty promptly tossed his third INT of the night, putting the game to bed.
Northwestern returns to action next weekend when it travels to Madison to take on No. 21 Wisconsin. The time is to be determined.