Iowa Football

Iowa-Northwestern football is an even series in the 21st century. Is it a rivalry?

Hawkeyes once won 21 in a row but it's back and forth now

Iowa Hawkeyes mascot Herky tries to stop the Northwestern Wildcats cheerleader as they run across the end zone with flag
Iowa Hawkeyes mascot Herky tries to stop the Northwestern Wildcats cheerleader as they run across the end zone with flags following a score during the third quarter of their NCAA football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016. Northwestern defeated Iowa 38-31. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — As a Hawkeye fan, you might not think of this as a rivalry. But the results over the last two decades indicate it is one.

A good one.

Iowa and Northwestern have split their 18 games in the 2000s. Iowa shut out the Wildcats last season, 20-0, to break a three-game losing streak in a series the Hawkeyes completely owned at one time.

Iowa won 21 in a row, most of them by lopsided margins, over what was quite frankly an awful Northwestern program from 1973 to 1994. The arrival of head coach Gary Barnett, who instantly declared Iowa his team’s rival, ended the dominance and eventually put the Wildcats into the Rose Bowl in 1996.

The late Randy Walker took over for Barnett before the 1999 season, when Barnett left for Colorado. He coached Northwestern through the 2005 season, dying at the age of 52 of a sudden heart attack in June 2006.

Former Northwestern linebacker Pat Fitzgerald replaced Walker beginning with the 2006 season and actually has a winning record of 8-6 against the Hawkeyes. He won his 100th career game last week when Northwestern blasted Maryland, 43-3.

Kirk Ferentz, of course, came aboard at Iowa for the 1999 season. He is 8-8 against Northwestern.

The teams square off Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.

“Northwestern clearly got off to a really impressive start (last week),” Ferentz said. “They played pretty almost flawless football and looked really impressive on the tape in all three areas. Not a huge surprise. I thought they were really sharp. They played clean football and really had it rolling pretty good out there. They’ve done a great job over the years ever since Pat Fitzgerald took over the program. He’s done a tremendous job and he has an outstanding staff.”


There has been bulletin-board material over the years, like when a Northwestern player told reporters he guaranteed Fitzgerald hated Iowa. The coach immediately downplayed that comment.

Both coaches have used “rivalry” in recent years when describing their annual matchup. Their programs are indeed different in many ways but similar in their sustained success.

Whether the fans feel that way or not, who knows, but certainly the results indicate this is a true rivalry. Let’s look back at every game between these two in the 2000s.

Some of the names involved here are pretty cool to remember.

2019: Iowa won at Northwestern, 20-0, becoming bowl eligible for the 18th time in 19 seasons. Northwestern had just 202 total yards, with Iowa posting its fourth Big Ten shutout in its last 11 conference games. A 50-yard touchdown pass from Nate Stanley to Tyrone Tracy Jr. was the game’s most explosive play.


2018: Northwestern won at Kinnick Stadium, 14-10, to clinch the Big Ten West Division championship. A beautiful, diving 32-yard touchdown catch by Bennett Skowronek early in the fourth quarter provided the winning points. Iowa fumbled on its last two offensive possessions.

2017: Northwestern won at home in overtime, 17-10. Clayton Thorson’s 1-yard QB sneak TD was the winner. Iowa went four-and-out on its ensuing OT possession, with Noah Fant dropping a fourth-down pass. Miguel Recinos’ 48-yard field goal with 1:30 left sent the game to overtime.

2016: Iowa lost in the Big Ten for the first time in 10 games, 38-31, at Iowa City. Justin Jackson had 172 yards rushing and a touchdown for the Wildcats. A Trae Williams interception of a C.J. Beathard pass with 1:05 left cemented the Northwestern win.


2015: The 17th-ranked Hawkeyes dominated No. 20 Northwestern at Evanston, 40-10. Akrum Wadley had a career-high 204 yards rushing and four touchdowns for Iowa.


2014: Iowa won 48-7 behind Akrum Wadley’s 108 rushing yards and two touchdowns, Mark Weisman added 97 yards and three scores at Kinnick.

2013: Jake Rudock’s 8-yard TD pass to tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz began the overtime session and thrilled the Kinnick crowd in a 17-10 Hawkeye win. Iowa’s defense did the rest, with a freshman cornerback named Desmond King providing a fourth-down pass breakup to end it.

2012: Pretty much all Northwestern at home here, 28-17. The Wildcats blew out to a 28-3 lead, literally running all over Iowa to the tune of 349 yards rushing. Quarterback Kain Colter finished with 166 yards rushing and three TDs, Venric Mark added 162 yards rushing.

2011: Iowa won a fun night game at Kinnick Stadium, 41-31. The Hawkeyes finished just shy of 500 offensive yards (495). Running back Marcus Coker had 124 yards rushing and a pair of TDs. Receiver Keenan Davis had six catches for 109 yards and a score.

2010: Iowa blew a 17-7 lead going to the fourth quarter and lost at Evanston, 21-17. Northwestern put together fourth-quarter scoring drives of 85 and 91 yards. The winning touchdown came with 1:22 left on a 20-yard pass from Dan Persa to Demetrius Fields. Iowa was ranked 13th.

2009: This one still hurts Iowa fans. Northwestern upset the 9-0, sixth-ranked Hawkeyes at Kinnick, 17-10. Ricky Stanzi and Marvin McNutt connected for a 74-yard touchdown just a minute in, but Stanzi injured his ankle on a second-quarter fumble in his end zone that Northwestern fell on for a touchdown and missed the rest of the game. James Vandenberg went 9-for-27 for just 82 yards and an interception taking his place.



2008: Another Kinnick Stadium gut punch. Northwestern outscored Iowa in the second half, 12-0, for a 22-17 victory. Iowa committed five turnovers, including four lost fumbles. Running back Shonn Green had 159 yards rushing before suffering a concussion in the fourth quarter on a carry in which he fumbled. Stanzi drove Iowa to the Northwestern 8 in the dying seconds but threw four straight incomplete passes.

2007: Iowa wins on the road in a comeback, 28-17. Two Damian Sims touchdown runs in the fourth quarter were the difference. QB Jake Christensen went 21-for-36 passing for 299 yards and a TD. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos had eight catches for 119 yards.

2006: Northwestern won at Kinnick, 21-7, behind 168 yards rushing and a touchdown from running back Tyrell Sutton. This was the first of four straight losses to end the season for Iowa, which ended up 6-7 after beginning the season 5-1.

2005: A miracle, 28-27, win at home for Northwestern. Well, maybe not a miracle, but close. Iowa led late, 27-14, but Sutton scored on a 1-yard run with 2:11 left, the Wildcats recovered an onside kick and drove for a 9-yard TD pass from Brett Basanez to Ross Lane with 42 seconds left, the extra point winning it. Albert Young had a career-high 202 yards rushing for Iowa, going over the 1,000-yard mark for the season.

2002: This was Iowa’s magical 11-2, Orange Bowl season. A 62-17 win at Kinnick. Brad Banks completed all 10 of his passes for 197 yards and three touchdowns, adding another 54 yards and two TDs rushing.


2001: Another blowout win for the Hawkeyes, 59-16, at Evanston. Iowa came up barely shy of 600 total yards, finishing with 588. Your individual standouts were running back Ladell Betts (22 rushes for 86 yards and two TDs) and receiver Kahlil Hill (six catches for 133).


2000: A game that showed the tide was turning at Iowa in Ferentz’s second season. Northwestern came in 7-2, Iowa 2-8, but the Hawkeyes won at home, 27-12. A 42-yard TD pass from Kyle McCann to Kevin Kasper gave Iowa a commanding 20-3 lead in the third quarter. McCann threw for 250 yards and two scores, while Kasper had five receptions for 105 yards.

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