By Todd Brommelkamp/KGYM Radio
IOWA CITY – Let’s not bury the lede here.
Iowa went toe-to-toe with Wisconsin under the lights Saturday night and came far closer than 11 points to being 4-0 to start the season.
That and a couple bucks will get you a bland cup of coffee somewhere.
Wisconsin came out ahead 28-17 and the road to the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis this December still runs through Madison.
“It wasn’t a perfect game by any means, but it was a great team win,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. “They stepped up and made plays when they had to.”
The Badgers, in the words of Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, played “clean football.”
The Hawkeyes most assuredly did not, despite only being flagged for one penalty to Wisconsin’s eight.
There were special teams miscues galore, including Cedar Rapids native Shaun Beyer making contact with a punt in the third quarter that allowed the Badgers to grab a 14-10 lead.
Yet Iowa led 17-14 at the end of the third quarter following a 1-yard touchdown pass from Nate Stanely to tight end Noah Fant.
When Wisconsin’s Jake Ferguson dropped what would have been a first down-converting pass on the Badgers’ first drive of the fourth quarter it seemed as if the Hawkeyes would be able to bleed the clock and escape Kinnick Stadium with a hard-fought victory.
Wisconsin took the lead for good on a 10-play, 88 yard scoring drive that left just under a minute for Stanley and the Hawks to overcome a 21-17 deficit.
“Everybody knew what we had to do and we just locked it in and got the drive going,” said Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook when asked to recall the pivotal game-winning possession.
Iowa still had time left on the clock and for a while fans managed to hang on to the hope that there’d be at least one more magical finish to a big night game in Iowa City.
It wasn’t to be.
Stanley’s third down pass attempt on the ensuing possession was intercepted by T. J. Edwards and the Badgers tacked on a final touchdown for good measure following the turnover.
“Obviously (we’re) really disappointed tonight,” said Stanley, whose 256 yards and 2 touchdowns made Saturday one of his better performances. “We thought we had chances to win that game but (we’re) just really disappointed in the way the game turned out.”
Adding insult to injury, Iowa has no game to prepare for next week. The Hawks will have to wait two weeks to step foot on Big Ten playing surface again when they travel to Minnesota to take on the Gophers.
“I think it’s good for our team,” said Fant. “It’s a good week to gather our thoughts and focus on the things we need to improve on so we can get back to it in two weeks.”
In victory the Badgers stretched their winning streak in Iowa City to five games dating back to 2010. They also retained possession of the Heartland Trophy for the third consecutive year.