Badgers bully Hawkeyes, hand Iowa second consecutive loss

Iowa falls to 6-2 on the season after losing, 27-7, to the Badgers in Madison.


Jerod Ringwald

Wisconsin running back Chez Mellusi fights for yards during a football game between No. 9 Iowa and Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (Jerod Ringwald/The Daily Iowan)

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

MADISON, Wis. — Iowa’s offense provided Hawkeye fans with plenty of scares in a 27-7 loss to Wisconsin that was perfectly suited for Halloween weekend.

The No. 9 Hawkeyes (6-2 overall, 3-2 Big Ten) trailed the Badgers (5-3, 3-2) 20-0 at the end of the first half. Over the first two quarters, Iowa was shut out, gained only 17 yards (including -13 rushing), managed to pick up a single first down, lost three fumbles, and gave up four sacks.

Iowa mustered a touchdown in the second half, but never brought the game back to within one possession over the final 30 minutes. The Hawkeyes only gained 156 yards the whole game.

“We struggled offensively today,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “That was pretty obvious … When that goes on and we can’t protect the ball the way we need to, it’s going to be tough to win.”

Wisconsin put together back-to-back scoring drives (a four-yard touchdown pass from Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz to tight end Jake Ferguson and a field goal) in the first quarter to go up 10-0. That was as large of a lead as the Badgers needed. But Mertz scored two touchdowns on quarterback sneaks (one in the second quarter, the other in the fourth), to give the Badgers a cushion, anyway. By the start of the fourth quarter, the 74,209 fans — many of them donning red attire —  in attendance at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday had plenty of reasons to jump around.

Iowa’s streak of allowing 24 points or fewer has ended at 29 games, but often the Hawkeye offense put the defense in tough situations. Three times, Wisconsin started an offensive drive inside Iowa’s 20-yard line after a Hawkeye fumble.

The first time was when Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras was stripped while taking a sack. Then, after Iowa’s defense held Wisconsin’s offense at the one-yard line for a goal-line stand, Hawkeye running back Ivory Kelly-Martin fumbled, giving the Badgers the ball inches from the end zone. Iowa’s Max Cooper muffed a punt later in the second quarter to make it three Iowa turnovers on the day. Wisconsin turned those three Iowa miscues into 10 points.

In Iowa’s losses to Purdue and Wisconsin, it was minus-three in turnovers margin in both games. The last time Iowa lost back-to-back games by double-digits was 2013.

When asked postgame in his confidence level in offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, Kirk Ferentz stayed optimistic.

“This is my 23rd year [as Iowa’s head coach], and I’ve had confidence in our coaches for 23 years,” Ferentz said. “That’s how I feel right now.  We’ve got a good room of people and a good staff of people … I’ve got total confidence in our staff. It’s an outstanding staff.”

Big picture

The Hawkeyes have dropped two games in a row after starting the year 6-0 and being ranked as high as No. 2 in the country. Iowa is now on a two-game losing streak after winning its previous 12 games.

A second Big Ten loss means that Iowa no longer controls its own destiny in the Big Ten West. Wisconsin now holds a tie breaker over Iowa, and Minnesota still only has one loss in the conference. The Hawkeyes have not won their division since 2015, which is also the last time Iowa beat Wisconsin in Madison.

After brining the Heartland Trophy back to Iowa City last year, it will stay in Madison this time around.

Turning point

After trailing 20-7, Iowa scored its first points of the game on a Petras quarterback sneak for a touchdown at the 8:21 mark of the third quarter. The Hawkeye defense forced a three-and-out on the next Badger drive, and Iowa’s offense got the ball back with a chance to put together back-to-back scoring drives and get back in the game.

Petras connected with wide receiver Charlie Jones on a third down to move Iowa past midfield.

Four plays later, facing fourth down with one yard to gain, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz called a fullback dive to Monte Pottebaum, which came up short of the line to gain.

“Needless to say, we thought it was the best call,” Ferentz said of the call. “And needless to say, it wasn’t successful. That third quarter, our guys came out and played. We had a chance to win that football game, or at least have a chance to get right back in it. That play wrapped it up and swung the momentum. Would we like to have the call back? Absolutely.”

Iowa’s drive ended at Wisconsin’s 40-yard line. The Badgers took over and went on an 11-play, 60-yard touchdown drive to go up 20 points again and all but end the game.

Petras leaves game

Iowa’s backup quarterback Alex Padilla entered the game midway through the fourth quarter the of Hawkeyes’ loss after Petras appeared to hurt his shoulder earlier in the quarter. Petras hit the ground hard while taking a sack, and his weight appeared to fall on his right shoulder.

Padilla went 3-for-5 passing for 39 yards.

Petras was 9-of-19 for 93 yards before leaving the game. All the second-year starter had to say about his health after the game was that he was feeling “good.”

In other injury news, Ferentz said cornerback Terry Roberts, who was in line to start Saturday with Riley Moss out, is dealing with a deep bruise that kept him off the field. Ferentz is hopeful Roberts can play next week.

Badgers control line of scrimmage

Wisconsin bullied Iowa up front, controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

Offensively, the Badgers ran for 166 yards. Defensively, they tallied six sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Iowa tried mixing up its offensive line, rotating guards and tackles throughout the game, but nothing could stop Wisconsin’s front seven.

“As a defensive line, I feel like we shot ourselves short,” defensive tackle Noah Shannon said. “We allowed over 150 rushing yards, which is not like us. It’s definitely something we’re going to look at tomorrow in meetings and try to improve on.”

Iowa’s offensive line wasn’t any better. Along with the sacks in pass protection, Iowa was held to 24 rushing yards on Saturday.

“We couldn’t hold up against them,” Ferentz said. “If you’re getting sacked six times, you’re not going to win.”

Punting isn’t always winning

Tory Taylor was perhaps Iowa’s only bright spot in Saturday’s loss.

The Australian punter averaged 49 yards per punt on seven attempts. Five of the sophomore’s punts were downed inside the Wisconsin 20-yard line, while five of them traveled more than 50 yards.

Up next

Iowa is on the road again next week for a Saturday night game at Northwestern. The exact kickoff time and television network have yet to be finalized.

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