F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “Never consider a single defeat with a final defeat…” or a double defeat in the ‘Cats case. No. 20 Northwestern faced yet another slaughter, this time on their own turf, to a B1G rival, the Iowa Hawkeyes.
There was rarely single upbeat moment in this self-lacerating game. After a devastating loss in the Big House last Saturday afternoon, gloom and doom set the tone for another bleak game as the undefeated Hawkeyes (7-0, 3-0 B1G) intercepted the ball on Northwestern’s (5-2, 1-2 B1G) first drive down the field.
Iowa’s defense was stingy in the first quarter, giving up no touchdowns to Northwestern. The ‘Cats, on the other hand, seemed lax. Although the Hawkeyes only lead 3-0 at the end of the first quarter, the team on the field started to resemble the Wildcats of recent years past.
Fitzgerald thought that the Wildcats’ weak defensive game created a problem, “Defensively we just ran out of gas. We couldn’t get off the field… we missed as many tackles as we had all year, which came out of nowhere.”
The second quarter started off like the beginning of a horror film for Northwestern fans. Iowa’s sophomore running back Akrum Wadley rushed 35 yards for a touchdown. Jaws dropped as flashbacks from last week’s game set in. Could it be? Another Northwestern shut out?
Think twice. Northwestern’s offense rallied well into the quarter. On their third drive, the Wildcats showed the Hawkeyes their wild-side, rushing the ball 76 yards up the field. Freshman quarterback Clayton Thorson created a groove after successfully passing the ball five times before scoring a much-needed touchdown, complete by senior wide receiver Christian Jones.
After cat-scratching Iowa on their first touchdown, the ‘Cats carried on with their rebellion. Senior safety Traveon Henry intercepted the ball. This may have seemed like just the beginning, but this was an unanticipated climax for Northwestern. The ‘Cats had an opportunity to put another touchdown on the board, but only managed a field goal. Iowa took a 16-10 lead into the half.
It seemed like there’d be hope for Northwestern in the third quarter after their strong end of the first half, but they fell apart once again, letting Iowa score two touchdowns in the third quarter. The sound of “Go Hawks” resonated around the stadium as Northwestern fans began to flee the stands.
The Wildcats were further tamed in the fourth quarter. The Hawks went on to score another two field goals in the fourth quarter, making the Wildcats look hopeless. Defaced, defeated and discouraged, players ran off the field after suffering yet another crushing loss to a B1G team, 40-10.
Christian Jones credits the loss to poor execution: “We had a good game plan and we knew what they were going to do. It was a simple thing of we know[ing] how they run their defense and how they run their offense and they know how we run things. It came down to who wanted it more and who was going to focus up and execute and we just didn’t do it.”
After suffering their first home loss, the discouraged ‘Cats will have to go on to play in Lincoln next week.
“I think we’ve played as competitive a schedule as anybody in the country,” head coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “I think we’ve been in some battles… It’s going to be the continual challenges as you move forward. As I said, as you’re taking steps up the mountain it gets harder and harder as the air gets thinner and thinner, and that’s Big Ten football as you move through October and November. We’ve just got to get back on a horse and get back to playing the way we were.”