Week 11 halftime reactions — Iowa vs. Wisconsin

A.J. Epenesa and penalties on Wisconsin have helped keep the Hawkeyes in the game in the first half.

Iowa+defensive+end+AJ+Epenesa+rushes+the+passer+during+a+football+game+between+Iowa+and+Wisconsin+at+Camp+Randall+Stadium+in+Madison+on+Saturday%2C+November+9%2C+2019.

Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa defensive end AJ Epenesa rushes the passer during a football game between Iowa and Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison on Saturday, November 9, 2019.

Pete Ruden and Anna Kayser

Epenesa makes impact in pass defense

It’s no secret that up to this point, Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa hasn’t put up the stats he did last season.

Through seven games in 2018, Epenesa racked up six sacks. Through seven games this season, he’s taken the quarterback down behind the line 3.5 times.

But he’s still made an impact.

According to Rivals’ Blair Sanderson and Pro Football Focus, Epenesa ranked second in the Big Ten with 37 quarterback pressures entering Saturday’s game against Wisconsin.

He kept the pressure up against the Badgers, stripping Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan in the first quarter. Hawkeye defensive tackle Cedrick Lattimore jumped on the loose ball, setting Iowa up on Wisconsin’s 16-yard line.

After moving inside the 10 following defensive holding on Wisconsin, Keith Duncan knocked through a 24-yard field goal for Iowa’s only points of the first half.

While Iowa’s offense hasn’t found a way to move the ball consistently, Epenesa’s forced fumble gave the Hawkeyes hope early in the game.

Shortly after, the Iowa defense held strong with the Badgers in the red zone, as a false start pushed the Badgers out of a fourth-and-2, forcing kicker Collin Larsh to miss the attempt.

If Epenesa keeps it up, he’ll likely set the Hawkeye offense up for success, and it needs all the help it can get.

-Pete Ruden

Penalties trap the Badgers

Entering today, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin were the top-three teams with the least penalty yards in the Big Ten.

Minnesota had five penalties for 40 yards total in its win against Penn State before Iowa-Wisconsin had even kicked off.

And then, there’s the Badgers, who committed six penalties for 43 yards through 30 minutes of play. Five of those penalties came in the first quarter.

Wisconsin opened up its first drive of the game with a false-start penalty and tacked on an illegal formation before the drive was over. Three plays into its second drive, another false start.

A holding call on Iowa’s third drive led to the first points on the board, and on the next play, Wisconsin was forced to attempt a field goal (which it missed) after yet another false start on a fourth-and-2.

Iowa had one penalty for 15 yards.

Big Ten football, I guess.

-Anna Kayser

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