Iowa Football

Iowa-Northwestern Game Report: Grades, numbers, notes and more

IOWA CITY — A closer look at Iowa’s 14-10 loss Saturday to Northwestern at Kinnick Stadium.

Play of the game

The Set Up: Iowa recruited Bennett Skowronek. Recruited him hard. But the sophomore wide receiver from Fort Wayne, Ind., chose Northwestern. And helped beat the Hawkeyes here.

Iowa led early in the fourth quarter, 10-7. Northwestern had just converted a third-and-9 at the Hawkeyes 45 on an unexpected read-option run up the middle by 5-foot-6 Hawaiian running back Chad Hanaoka. The carry, just his second of the game, went for 13 yards to the Iowa 32.

What Happened: Northwestern decided to pass on the ensuing play. Quarterback Clayton Thorson looked one way and saw no one open. He looked another way and saw no one open. He then decided to make a deep throw to the left corner of the end zone to Skowronek. He really wasn’t open, either, covered well by Iowa cornerback Michael Ojemudia.

But sometimes you’ve just got to take a shot, right? That’s what Thorson did here.

The Result: The 6-foot-4 Skowronek laid out for a pass only he could get to. It appeared there was no way he would come up with it, yet he did, somehow pinning the ball with his left arm as he hit the turf. No one thought he had made the catch, including Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald.

“It was a ridiculous catch,” Fitzgerald said. “I don’t know how he caught the ball. I don’t think anyone in the building thought he caught the ball. From my vantage point, I thought it was overthrown because I couldn’t see, I was blocked. Then he gets up with the ball, and I was like ‘Are you kidding me?’”

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Nope, there was no kidding here. Just a touchdown that ultimately sent the Wildcats to the Big Ten title game.

“I don’t want it to be remembered as my play,” Skowronek said. “I want it to remembered as a great team win, because that’s what it truly was.”

Grades

Marc Morehouse: D-

Iowa is stuck in the mud. Is it dead or taking a nap? You poke it.

Mike Hlas: D

Champaign is as close as the Hawkeyes will get to Indianapolis in the next three weeks, and Champaign is no Indianapolis.

Jeff Johnson D+

It’d be an A+ if I were covering Northwestern. But I’m not, so ...

Notes

• Representatives from the Outback, Holiday and Citrus Bowls were at Saturday’s game. So were scouts from the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, New York Jets and Los Angeles Rams. Several members of the National Football Foundation also were in attendance.

• Former punter Jason Baker was Iowa’s honorary captain Saturday. He is the school’s career leader in punts and punting yardage. Baker punted in the NFL from 2001 through 2011 for the Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs.

• In conjunction with its Military Appreciation promotion, Iowa honored Robert Stavnes of Castalia. Stavnes is a University of Iowa graduate and colonel in the Army who served tours in Germany, Bosnia, Kosovo, Korea, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq. He serves today as a consultant to the military overseas and as president of the Iowa Council of Chapters for the Military Officers Association of America.

• Denver Broncos linebacker and former Hawkeye Josey Jewell was recognized during the first quarter for winning the 2017 Lott IMPACT Trophy. The trophy is named after college and pro hall of famer Ronnie Lott and awarded annually to college football’s “defensive best in character and performance.” Jewell was given an award ring and a check for $25,000 was presented to the UI General Scholarship Fund.

• The kickoff for Saturday’s game was pushed back five minutes, from 2:42 p.m. to 2:47 p.m. That call came from FOX because of the longevity of the Michigan State-Ohio State that preceded Iowa-Northwestern on the network.

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• Iowa won the opening coin toss, but that’s nothing new. This was the Hawkeyes’ 250th game under head coach Kirk Ferentz, and they opened on offense 187 times. Do the math there, and that would tell you the defense has begun 63 games.

• There were three instant replays in Saturday’s game. Iowa rushed for a first down in the opening half on a 2-yard Austin Kelly run. That call was confirmed. A great 36-yard catch along the sideline by Iowa’s Ihmir Smith-Marsette in the third quarter initially was ruled incomplete because the receiver was ruled out of bounds. That call was reversed. Skorownek’s equally great 32-yard diving TD catch in the fourth quarter was confirmed after a replay.

• Geno Stone’s interception of Thorson in the third quarter was the sophomore safety’s team-leading fourth this season. Stone played safety with Jake Gervase (who also had an interception) the entire game, with Matt Hankins and Michael Ojemudia taking over cornerback duties from true freshmen Riley Moss and Julius Brents. Safety Amani Hooker slid down into the box as a pseudo-corner against Northwestern’s three-receiver offensive set.

By the numbers

198  — All-purpose yards for Smith-Marsette. The career-high was accomplished via 100 yards in kickoff returns and 90 in receptions.

24  — The number Iowa players wore on the left side of their helmets Saturday. It was to honor former Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick on Military Appreciation Day.

11  — Consecutive field-goal attempts made by Iowa kicker Miguel Recinos, a streak ended when he missed a 38-yarder in the third quarter off the right upright. The 11 in a row was the longest active streak in Power Five-conference football.

2  — Number of consecutive fumbles by Iowa running backs in the fourth quarter. They just happened to come on the final two Hawkeye rushing attempts of the game.

1  — Total of Big Ten West Division championships for Northwestern.

Injury Report

Starting wide receiver Brandon Smith did not play Saturday due to an injury incurred late in last week’s game at Purdue. He is Iowa’s fourth-leading receiver with 17 catches.

Fullback Brady Ross also missed his fourth straight game with an ankle injury.

Backup tight end Shaun Beyer also remains out with a leg injury.

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Up next

Iowa wraps up the road version of its 2018 schedule next Saturday at Illinois. No game time has been announced. It will be the Hawkeyes’ fifth road game in seven weeks.

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

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