Iowa has a proud history of knocking off ranked teams in night games at Kinnick Stadium, and No. 18 Wisconsin’s visit on Saturday had a chance to be another, but a number of crucial mistakes and clutch plays by the Badgers allowed the visitors to escape with a 28-17 win.
In a game without many scoring opportunities, Iowa’s list of mistakes started when Kirk Ferentz made a very un-Ferentz like decision and it immediately came back to bite him.
After forcing a Wisconsin punt to open the game, Iowa marched from its own 15 to the Wisconsin 12 when Nate Stanley hit running back Ivory Kelly-Martin for a 7-yard completion on 3rd-and-8, taking the ball to the Badgers’ 5, setting up a 4th-and-1. The Iowa offense hurried to the line, but a pair of false starts by Iowa’s guards were wiped out when the replay official stopped play to review the spot. Given the chance to think it over, Ferentz chose to go for it again, and Stanley’s sneak was stuffed.
Wisconsin immediately took advantage, moving 95 yards in 11 plays, scoring on a 6-yard Alex Hornibrook pass to Jake Ferguson at the 14:31 mark of the second quarter.
The teams traded punts on their next possessions and Iowa seemed primed to punt again when Stanley loaded up to throw on a 3rd-and-9 from his own 34, but his rainbow found T.J. Hockenson for a 46-yard gain, which he hauled in despite defensive pass interference on the play. Stanley put Iowa on the board with a 20-yard scoring strike to Noah Fant on the next play, evening the game at the 5:15 mark of the first half.
Iowa forced another Wisconsin punt on the ensuing possession, but the Hawkeyes’ momentum was wiped out when Kyle Groeneweg‘s 23-yard punt return to midfield ended in a fumble forced and recovered by Wisconsin’s D’Cota Dixon.
Still, Iowa’s defense forced another punt, and the Hawkeyes expired the final minute to send the game to the half.
Iowa accepted the ball to open the second half and notched a 24-yard Miguel Recinos field goal to take its first lead of the game and forced another Wisconsin punt, but another special teams disaster cost the Hawkeyes a chance to take control of the game. As Anthony Lotti‘s punt spun to a stop on the Kinnick Stadium turf, an unaware Shaun Breyer touched the ball with his foot at his own 10-yard line, and Wisconsin’s Travian Blaylock hopped on the loose ball.
Three plays later, Hornibrook hit Danny Davis III to put Wisconsin back on top, 14-10.
Iowa answered immediately, moving 75 yards in eight plays and scoring on a 1-yard toss from Stanley to Fant at the 1:37 mark of the third quarter.
The score remained at 17-14 when Wisconsin took over at its own 12 with 5:40 remaining, and the Badgers consumed 4:43 of the available clock, taking a 21-17 lead on a 17-yard pass to A.J. Taylor with 57 seconds to play.
Needing a touchdown to win the game, Iowa (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten) took over at its own 24, but Stanley was intercepted by T.J. Edwards, and Alec Ingold scored the capper on a 33-yard rush with 22 ticks to play.
Hornibrook was the star of the game, hitting 17-of-22 passes for 205 yards with three touchdowns and no picks, while Jonathan Taylor rushed 25 times for 113 yards.
Wisconsin (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) successfully bounced back from last week’s loss to BYU and won in Iowa City for the fifth straight time. Overall, Wisconsin has won six of the past seven Heartland Trophy meetings, and the winner of the Heartland Trophy game has gone on to win the Big Ten West in each of the past four seasons.