Wildcats down to last stand in Legends
Last week, with the 2:30 p.m. time slot, the Northwestern Wildcats negotiated with their coach to get a nap built into their pregame schedule.
This week, it's 11 a.m. with the Hawkeyes (4-3, 2-1 Big Ten). The trophy here will be survival in the Big Ten Legends division. Northwestern has bowl eligibility wrapped up at 6-2 (2-2 Big Ten), but a third conference loss would likely sink the Wildcats' hopes for anything Indianapolis, with the Legends musical chairs in full twirl this weekend.
Another question for both teams this week will be whether or not they can flush last week's result?
You saw the Hawkeyes' blowout 38-14 loss at Kinnick Stadium. The Wildcats had a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter only to watch it shrink in the most painful manner during a 29-28 loss to Nebraska at a mostly Nebraska fan-filled Ryan Field.
NU quarterback Taylor Martinez threw over the middle, where the Cats' David Nwabuisi tipped it. Before he could gather it in, fellow linebacker Damien Proby ran into him. The ball went into the air. D-lineman Sean McEvily had a shot at the ball, but no.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said he "thought we were watching the Cats play volleyball, passing it back and forth. When you have a chance for a turnover and then you miss it, the football gods usually strike you with some lightning."
On the next play, safety Ibraheim Campbell had a shot at a pick on the next play. Nope.
"Two on one drive, not good," Fitzgerald said. "Lightning and thunder."
The Hawkeyes and Wildcats were left sifting through insults and injuries after last Saturday's results.
Iowa will have to figure out an offense that produced just 20 yards rushing (lowest since 2005) and 209 total yards (lowest since 2009) without left tackle Brandon Scherff (broken leg, out four to six weeks) and guard Andrew Donnal (knee injury). Junior Nolan MacMillan, who saw his first action in 20 games against Penn State, replaced Scherff last week. Redshirt freshman Austin Blythe returned to the lineup after missing three weeks with an ankle injury.
Northwestern's insult wasn't so much the result as it was the fact that the Cats had to use a silent count on their final drive because their linemen couldn't hear the calls.
"We didn't prepare for that all week," quarterback Kain Colter said.
Quarterback Trevor Siemian moved the Cats to the Nebraska's 39, but Jeff Budzien's 53-yard field goal attempt sailed a few feet wide right. It was his first miss in 11 attempts this season and the Cats were that close to picking off Nebraska.
Northwestern's no-huddle spread went three-and-out 10 times in 17 drives.
"We just have to flush it," Colter said. "We still have all of our goals in front of us. We're not in control of that anymore -- some things have to happen -- but if we play the way we're capable we'll still be in the conversation for the champion of this league."
The injury part could've been worse for the Cats.
Running back Venric Mark, fifth in the Big Ten in rushing with 113.75 rushing yards a game, left in the second half with an undisclosed injury. Fitzgerald said Monday Mark is expected to play against the Hawkeyes. Mark has 910 yards and nine TDs.
The Wildcats secondary could be thin. Cornerbacks Nick VanHoose and Quinn Evans are doubtful because of injuries, Fitzgerald said. VanHoose, who suffered a shoulder injury against Nebraska, is NU's top cover corner.
|Passing Yards:||T. Siemian||927|
|Passing TDs:||T. Siemian||4|
|Rushing Yards:||V. Mark||910|
|Rushing TDs:||V. Mark||9|
|Receiving Yards:||T. Jones||266|
|Receiving TDs:||T. Jones||2|
|Passing Yards:||J. Vandenberg||1323|
|Passing TDs:||J. Vandenberg||3|
|Rushing Yards:||M. Weisman||640|
|Rushing TDs:||M. Weisman||8|
|Receiving Yards:||K. Davis||456|
|Receiving TDs:||J. Cotton||1|
Tanner Miller's 98-yard INT TD return in Iowa's 41-31 victory over Northwestern at Kinnick Stadium last season