Iowa football downs Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium, works back into Big Ten West title race

After their 24-10 win over the Badgers, the Hawkeyes are now part of a four-way tie for the lead in their division with Minnesota, Illinois, and Purdue.


Austin Hanson, Pregame Editor

Iowa football’s defense proved dominant against Wisconsin on Saturday. The Hawkeyes forced three turnovers in their 24-10 win over the Badgers.

Seven of Iowa’s points came directly from its defense. With 2:03 remaining in the second quarter, sophomore defensive back Cooper DeJean recorded a pick six. He intercepted Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz near the Badger 32-yard line and ran untouched into the end zone.

DeJean’s touchdown was Iowa’s second of the game. The first came via running back Kaleb Johnson. The true freshman scored a 4-yard touchdown with just over 10 minutes to play in the first half.

Johnson’s touchdown was set up by a blocked punt. Sophomore defensive lineman Deontae Craig batted a ball off the foot of Wisconsin punter Andy Vujnovich near the Wisconsin 20-yard line. The ball was recovered by junior linebacker Jay Higgins.

“I am feeling it right here in my forearm right now, but the ‘W’ takes all the pain away,” Craig said postgame. “It was base-double, pro-style protection. I knew our ends were going to have an advantage over some of their protectors. Not just me, but everybody up front did a great job of rushing all game. That’s how things opened up like that.”

After Higgins’ recovery, quarterback Spencer Petras set up Johnson’s touchdown, completing a 13-yard pass to the 4-yard line to tight end Sam LaPorta.

DeJean helped the Hawkeyes score their third touchdown of the game, returning a punt 41 yards to the Wisconsin 18-yard line. After a 9-yard completion to LaPorta and three Johnson rushing attempts, Petras ultimately punched the ball into the end zone on a sneak play with 13:52 left in the fourth quarter.

Wisconsin forced one turnover on the game via a Petras fumble near the 50-yard line in the first quarter. The Badgers had a number of opportunities to get more takeaways on Saturday, as the Hawkeyes’ offensive line struggled throughout the game.

Petras was sacked six times and hit on one other occasion. The Badgers amassed 11 tackles for loss in the game.

Big Picture

The win over Wisconsin helped Iowa improve its overall and conference records to 6-4 and 4-3, respectively. 

The Hawkeyes are now bowl-eligible. Before Saturday’s game, The Action Network projected Iowa to take on North Carolina State in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Dec. 30.

Iowa is also tied with Illinois, Purdue, and Minnesota for first place in the Big Ten West. The Fighting Illini hold the tiebreaker over the Hawkeyes via a head-to-head victory. Illinois beat Iowa, 9-6, at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Oct. 8.

Iowa holds the head-to-head tiebreaker against Purdue. The Hawkeyes beat the Boilermakers, 24-3, at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana, last week.

Up next

Iowa could earn a tiebreaker over Minnesota next week at Huntington Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Should the Hawkeyes beat the Gophers next week, they’d hold tiebreakers over all the teams in first place in the West except for Illinois.

“I don’t think anybody’s thinking about a pennant race right now,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I think we were all thinking about trying to get our third (consecutive) win. We’ve got two left now. So, with all that stuff, it’s like last year, it doesn’t look good, then all of a sudden, we’re in (Indianapolis). So, my experience is, you know, don’t worry about it.”

The kick time of next Saturday’s Iowa-Minnesota game has yet to be determined. Minnesota is 7-3 overall this season. The Golden Gophers will come into their matchup with the Hawkeyes fresh off a win over the Northwestern Wildcats.