Iowa Football

Wisconsin defense wasn't perfect, but got the stops it needed against Iowa

Badgers stay in Big Ten West contention with 24-22 win

MADISON, Wis. — As Wisconsin linebacker Zack Baun sees it, Iowa’s failed two-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter against Wisconsin symbolizes the Iowa-Wisconsin rivalry.

“It’s mano a mano,” Baun said. “Strength on strength. Chris (and) Wisconsin won that one. We said the more physical team would win, and that play in itself resembles that.”

The play also resembles how Wisconsin’s defense performed against the Hawkeyes in Iowa’s 24-22 loss Saturday: reliable when it needed to be, but far from flawless.

“Both teams made mistakes,” Wisconsin linebacker Jack Sanborn said. “We just came with it together in those pivotal moments of the game. That pushed us over the edge.”

Overall, the performance was hardly Wisconsin’s best.

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley threw for 208 yards and two touchdowns. Much of the damage came in the second half, when Stanley threw for 181 of his 208 yards both of his touchdowns.

“Credit to their coaches,” Sanborn said. “They came out in different schemes and everything like that. They were hitting us in different areas. … It was just up to us hanging in there.”

Wisconsin was looking to get more pressure on Stanley, but Iowa’s physicality on the offensive line and Stanley’s relatively big body hindered the Badgers’ pass rush. UW only had one sack.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“That’s where our DBs and our coverage needs to come into play,” Baun said. “If we can’t get pressure, then they got to step up and make plays.”

Yet the Badgers made defensive stops when they absolutely needed them, including Iowa’s failed two-point conversion in the fourth.

Iowa could not convert on third down in its first eight attempts. The offense had its first third-down conversion against the Badgers since 2015 in the fourth quarter, when Stanley found Nico Ragaini for a touchdown on third-and-goal.

“Our goal is to get three-and-outs, and if we don’t, it’s kind of like a little fire is lit under our butts,” Baun said. “We’re just trying to get out of the field.”

After Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa forced a fumble deep in Wisconsin territory, the Hawkeyes had a drive start on the UW 16-yard line, but they couldn’t find the end zone.

Later in the first half, the Hawkeyes were quickly building momentum followed by a bizarre sequence of Wisconsin miscues — a failed third-down conversion, a false start when trying to go for it on fourth-and-2 and then a missed 22-yard field goal.

Iowa had the ball on Wisconsin’s 41-yard line when Stanley couldn’t handle a snap and fumbled it near the line of scrimmage. Sanborn came up with it, squashing the Hawkeyes’ momentum.

“The ball kind of fell and got kicked around a bit, and just I was in the right place at the right time,” Sanborn said. “In the moment, that play might not have seemed like it was that big, but each play made the difference. … That just swings the total momentum, kills the drive for them (and) gives our offense the ball in good field position.”

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

It fits the trend for recent Heartland Trophy games. Last season, Iowa suffered three turnovers against Wisconsin in the 28-17 loss.

“In this game historically, turnovers have caused the game (to change),” Baun said.

Now Ferentz will have another year to change the trend.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.