Iowa Football

Iowa football notes: Hawkeyes shut down Wisconsin on the ground

Badgers rush for just 56 yards in 28-7 Iowa win

IOWA CITY — How many times over the years have you seen Wisconsin run all over the Iowa Hawkeyes? Plenty.

It’s just what the Badgers do ... to everyone.

Except Saturday. That Iowa’s defense was able to negate Wisconsin’s rushing attack played a pivotal role in Iowa’s 28-7 win Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.

Check the numbers.

Wisconsin had 33 rushing attempts and accumulated all of 56 yards, a 1.7 per-carry average. Granted, the Badgers were without top running back Jalen Berger, as well as starting wide receivers Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor.

But still.

“We know what kind of team they are, we know what they want to kind of do,” said Iowa linebacker Nick Niemann. “We have the same style of play as them, and every year it seems to come down to who can play more physical, who can run the ball, who can play great defense. Obviously our whole emphasis this week was stopping the run. We weren’t going to win the game if that didn’t happen. We just put our foot down and said we were not going to let them run the ball. We tried to do our best at that.”

They did pretty well. Wisconsin rushed for 300 yards in last season’s game, for 210 in a 2018 win, for 247 in a 2017 victory.

Offense has not come easily for the Badgers in their last three games. They have scored a total of 20 points.

Yet this was the first game this disjoined season that they have been outgained. Iowa finished with 338 yards to Wisconsin’s 225.

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“We wanted to finish strong for this regular season,” said Iowa defensive end Chauncey Golston, who led his team in tackles. “You don’t know that there’s a next game, so finishing strong is all you can possibly do. I’m proud of my guys for that.”

Here’s the series of plays that summed up this defensive performance for Iowa. A weird illegal kicking penalty on Iowa’s Tory Taylor gave Wisconsin first-and-goal at the Iowa 5 in a 21-7 game with six minutes left.

The Badgers appeared poised to get right back into the thick of it. But a Graham Mertz incompletion was followed by a Mertz scramble run for no gain.

A third-down shovel pass went for 3 yards to the Hawkeyes 2. On fourth down, Mertz play-action rolled to his right but had no one open.

His pass in the end zone ended up being intercepted by linebacker Jack Campbell. Tyler Goodson followed with an 80-yard TD run for Iowa, and it was ballgame.

“We did our thing,” said Iowa defensive back Dane Belton. “We’ll have to go in tomorrow and look at the film to see if it was our best performance. But it was definitely up there. I just think our game plan, trusting the coaches the whole week, practicing hard. You win the game Monday through Friday. You don’t just win it on Saturday. I feel like as a defense, we won it on Monday through Friday. We just brought it to the field and played with relentless effort, like we always do.

“We were flying around balling.”

Quick slants

— Ferentz said scholarships have been awarded to walk-on wide receiver/punt returner Charlie Jones, fullback Monte Pottebaum and defensive end Joe Evans. All three have played integral roles on the team this season.

— Ferentz said he wasn’t sure why Iowa was given a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty midway in the second quarter. A flag flew well after a Wisconsin punt had been downed, with referee Larry Smith announcing the call on an unspecified Iowa coach.

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— This was the 22nd consecutive game Iowa has allowed 25 points or fewer in a game. That’s a streak that leads the FBS.

— This was Iowa’s largest margin of victory over Wisconsin since the 2008 game (38-16).

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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