No. 9 Wisconsin gets statement win at IowaBy LUKE MEREDITH, AP Sports Writer Sunday, Oct 24, 2010
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP)—There were times earlier this season when Wisconsin didn’t look all that remarkable.
That’s certainly changed the past two weeks.
No. 9 Wisconsin (7-1, 3-1 Big Ten) put its upset of then-No. 1 Ohio State behind it with a gutsy 31-30 comeback win at Iowa on Saturday.
The Badgers rolled off four scoring drives of at least 10 plays on the road against one of the nation’s top defense. They also converted all three of their fourth-down tries—including Brad Nortman’s daring 17-yard run midway through the fourth quarter that kept the eventual winning drive alive.
Though the Badgers are still looking up at unbeaten Michigan State in the Big Ten standings, they go into their bye week knowing they’ve survived their toughest stretch of the season.
“The key to victory on the road is how you respond to that adversity and guys stepped up across the board and made plays,” said Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien, who was 20 of 26 passing for 205 yards against the Hawkeyes.
The Badgers played most of the game without tight end Lance Kendricks, running back James White or wide receiver Nick Toon, and it took a lot of muscle — and just as much guts—to walk out of Kinnick Stadium with the Heartland Trophy.
Though the highly anticipated battle between Wisconsin’s offensive line and Iowa’s defensive line was essentially a standstill, the Badgers gave Tolzien the time he needed to make plays on the Badgers’ final drive.
Tolzien hit Jacob Pedersen for a 12-yard reception on a key third down and Montee Ball for 7 yards on fourth-and-4. From there, Wisconsin’s mammoth O-line cleared the way for John Clay and Ball to rush for the final 27 yards on just four plays.
Ball muscled his way into the end zone from 8 yards out for the eventual winning score.
“I wasn’t going to be denied. The offensive line gave me a great push and I wasn’t going to let them down,” Ball said.
It was a crushing loss for Iowa, which entered the season with its highest preseason ranking in 22 years. The belief among many Hawkeyes fans was that this was the year they could finally challenge for a spot in the national title game.
All that’s finished now.
The Hawkeyes had their chances to put the Badgers away. Iowa missed an extra point—a huge one, it turned out—along with a field goal after a botched snap. They also had to settle for a field goal after picking off Tolzien in Iowa territory in the fourth quarter, and Nortman’s fake punt was eerily similar to the one FCS Eastern Illinois successfully converted in the opener.
Iowa also ran out of time on their final drive. The Hawkeyes burned their last timeout, and Adam Robinson couldn’t get out of bounds on the final play, allowing time to expire.
Iowa’s defense took the loss personally. But quarterback Ricky Stanzi—who was once again brilliant with 258 yards passing, three touchdowns and no picks— wasn’t having any of that.
“There were plenty of times that the offense sputtered out and (we) didn’t do our jobs,” Stanzi said. “We all just need to focus on improvement.”
As tough as the loss was for the No. 18 Hawkeyes to swallow, they can still reach the Rose Bowl—though it’s a longshot.
Iowa hosts unbeaten Michigan State next week with a chance to jump back into a logjam atop the Big Ten, and the Hawkeyes get Ohio State on Nov. 20 at home.
If Iowa can win out, it might just make it to Pasadena after all.
“There’s a lot of football left. We’ve already told them that,” coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Now that Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema has beaten his alma mater, he can go back to rooting for them on his weekend off. An Iowa win over the Spartans would help the Badgers tremendously in their quest for Pasadena. Wisconsin certainly looks to have the easiest road left among the league’s contenders, with a bye week to rest up.
Kendricks and White both said they’ll be ready to go in two weeks, and so should Toon.
The Badgers have road games at Purdue and Michigan, and Indiana and Northwestern have to travel to Camp Randall Stadium.
After what they’ve done the last weeks, who’s to say Wisconsin can’t win them all?
“I’m always an Iowa fan. I graduated from here,” Bielema said. “I like (Ferentz) and his staff. I want him to have success. Now, in the politics of the Big Ten, you’re going to be cheering or hoping but I don’t really get wrapped up in all that.”