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Home / Iowa 48, Northwestern 7: Respect their authority
IOWA CITY - The Hawkeyes had to suck on the dirty sweat sock sandwich that was the Maryland game for two weeks.
They hated that game. They hated their effort in that game. Mistakes, turnovers, missed tackles. For two weeks, that sat in their gut like a burrito they found on a sidewalk and decided to munch on.
Their 48-7 victory over Northwestern was a three-hour flush.
Quarterback Jake Rudock completed 12 of 19 for 239 yards and a TD, the Iowa defense rolled up five sacks and held the Wildcats to a season low 180 yards and Iowa produced a 100-yard rushing performance before 66,887 fans at Kinnick Stadium.
Redshirt freshman Akrum Wadley took advantage of his first carries and finished with 106 yards and a TD, snapping a streak of 10 games for Iowa without a 100-yard rusher. Running back Mark Weisman clocked in with 94 yards and three TDs.
Most importantly for Iowa, it crossed off 'win of consequence.” Having downed Northwestern (3-5, 2-3), the first of five consecutive Big Ten West Division opponents, the Hawkeyes (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) travel to Minnesota (6-2, 3-1 on bye this week) for the next round of the Big Ten playoffs.
Most immediately, the sour barbecued carp plate that was Maryland has now been exorcised.
'It just ate at us, because we knew we didn't perform very well,” strong safety John Lowdermilk said. 'I think we need to have something eat at us every week, so we can play like that all the time.”
It's going to be difficult to find any flaws coming out of this.
Rudock spun near perfection in the first half. He completed 9 of 13 with long throws of 43, 42 and 31, which was a TD pass to wide receiver Tevaun Smith, and spurred a commanding 38-7 halftime lead, which included a blocked punt and recovery for a TD by freshman linebacker Ben Niemann.
'Yeah, I thought he was right on top of his game, and he made some really nice throws out there, made some nice checks for us, really had a good feel for what they were doing,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. 'I don't want to say flawless, but it looked like he played pretty well out there.”
It might've been his best game in an Iowa uniform. It was a career high in pass efficiency, checking in at 186.2 (topping his previous best of 185.71 against Western Michigan last year and best for an Iowa QB since James Vandenberg had a 290.3 vs. Indiana in 2011).
'Sure,” Rudock said when asked if this was, indeed, his best game. 'That's up to you guys, that's up to whomever wants to judge it or critique it. We won, we won.”
Iowa's passing trees were a little different. More routes settled on the seam and in the middle of the field. That caught the Wildcats off guard.
'It was what we've been doing in practice, we just hadn't pulled it out yet,” Smith said. 'With their defense, that's what opened up. It was nice that it opened up. It gave the offense a lot more confidence.”
These were the first carries of Wadley's career. With junior Jordan Canzeri (ankle) out, the New Jersey native took advantage of his opportunity.
'I've been having dreams about this,” said Wadley, who had runs of 23 and 26 yards, the first Iowa to have two 20-plus runs in a game this season. 'When he [running backs coach Chris White] told me to go in, I was like ‘wow.' It's crazy.”
Iowa's offense built some beautiful numbers off a dominant effort from the offensive line, which this week, from left, went tackle Brandon Scherff, guard Austin Blythe, center Tommy Gaul, guard Jordan Walsh and tackle Andrew Donnal. Iowa averaged 6.8 yards on 71 plays, its best number there in 11 games. The 212 rushing yards also was its best in 11 games (last season vs. Purdue).
'They have two NFL players at tackle, there is no doubt about that,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. 'Scherff and the rest of the offensive line pretty much had their way with us all day long.”
Not only was this flushing the Maryland game for the O-line, it was a release of some sort of pent-up aggression after a season full of questions.
'It's something we've talked about the last two weeks,” Blythe said. 'It's something we wanted to come out and do and we did it. We feel good about that.”
After a little more research, the headlock Iowa's defense put on the Wildcats is almost historic. The 180 yards total offense is not only the Cats' lowest this season, it's the lowest since Sept. 22, 2007, when they had just 120 yards in a 58-7 loss at Ohio State. That's their lowest in a span of 93 games.
That's your big, wow number of the day. Defensive tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat had three sacks, another wow number. The secondary broke up a season-high eight passes, another wow.
The only flaw, really, with the defense happened when Trinca-Pasat was bonked on the head by a teammate on a sack late in the first half.
'Yeah, I don't remember,” he said. 'I know someone came flying in and hit me. I don't know who it was. Just get up and go to the next play.”
This was one of those games where they really wanted to get up and get to the next play.
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