Recap: Iowa falls to NIU, 30-27

Despite amassing 458 yards of offense, the Iowa football team mustered just 27 points in a loss to Northern Illinois

By Ben Ross

benjamin-d-ross@uiowa.edu

Just like in 2012, this year’s installment of the Iowa-Northern Illinois matchup came down to the waning minutes of the fourth quarter.

Contrary to 2012, NIU will be the squad starting its season 1-0, as the Huskies defeated Iowa 30-27.

It was Iowa’s game to win when it received a punt on its own 45-yard line with 1:30 left to play and the score tied at 27’s. But a victory wasn’t the case when first-year starting quarterback Jake Rudock — who had been relatively effective all day — threw an interception on the first play of the drive right to Husky safety Jimmie Ward.

“They were playing man-to-man, and he jumped on it,” Rudock said after the game. “The longer you dwell, the worse it gets so we have to put this behind you quick and focus on the next team.”

The interception brought the ball to the Iowa 30, and all NIU had to do was hold on to the ball and kick the game-winner through the uprights.

“Throughout the course of the game they were doing corner and out routes,” Ward said. “I saw the play and the route and I took the chance.”

The sophomore quarterback ended the day with 256 yards through the air and a touchdown to tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz. Rudock also had 20 yards on six carries, including a six-yard scamper that resulted in a touchdown to close out the first half.

In addition to the turnover he committed to close the game, Rudock threw an interception in the first half, but was a result of the ball getting tipped at the line of scrimmage.

Iowa was leading with seven minutes to play when NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch hit Da’Ron Brown for 33 yards and a score to tie the game at 27 apiece.

NIU held a 10-0 lead early in the game, and it was looking a lot the Iowa football team of last year before senior linebacker Christian Kirksey stripped the ball away from Husky tight end Luke Eakes. Kirksey then recovered the fumble and brought it 48 yards to the end zone to cut the Northern Illinois lead to 3.

“It was just one of those weird plays where the ball came out when I tried to make a tackle,” Kirksey–who also celebrated his 21st birthday on Saturday — said. “I saw him coming across and tried to make a play, but unfortunately we had a loss so the play doesn’t mean anything because we didn’t win.”

Iowa also had NIU reeling late in the third quarter with the Hawkeyes up 24-17. With four minutes to play in the penultimate frame, and lined up on Iowa’s 46, the Huskies motioned in punt formation on 4th-and-five. NIU punter Tyler Wedel kept the snap and rushed 43 yards up the right sideline.

NIU didn’t get in the end zone following the fake punt, but kicked a field goal to cut Iowa’s lead to 4.

“Was it a surprise? No,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said of the fake punt following the game. “These guys run fake punts, fake field goals, they’ve run plenty of them the last couple years, two years. We had our punt safe team out there and they made a play and we didn’t.”

Lynch, who finished seventh in the Heisman voting last year, was rendered relatively ineffective on the ground, netting just 56 rushing yards, but carved Iowa’s secondary up through the air, tossing for 275 yards and three scores. NIU’s three passing scores were longer plays; passes of 40, 21, and 33 yards all went for touchdowns.

Iowa is now on a seven game losing streak dating back to last year, but has a good chance to reach a win for the first time since Oct. 13 when Missouri State comes to Iowa City.

Iowa running back Damon Bullock said he doesn’t see it as a losing streak, though. The junior tailback said last season’s performance doesn’t carry over to this season, and that his team had trouble finishing in its first game of the year.

“It’s one straight loss. 0-1 we have to come in Sunday and try to do good for… I don’t even know who we have next, we just have to do good for the next game,” Bullock said.”

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