If you came into this game thinking that Iowa was going to look hapless on offense and suffer at the hands of Jonathan Taylor well…that was the case for most of the contest.
Things were encouraging for the Hawkeyes as they stopped the Badgers on their opening drive and A.J. Epenesa did the damn thing on defense:
This set the Hawkeyes up deep in Wisconsin territory but I have bad news in telling you that Iowa’s offense is a dumpster fire in the red zone and they ended up having to kick a field goal to take a 3-0 lead. A very odd thing about this game is that Wisconsin, a team known for discipline, made a bunch of mistakes. They were penalized 8 times for 63 yards, with a number of those penalties coming in the first half. That’s why Iowa was able to keep the game close: Wisconsin kept screwing up.
When the Badgers weren’t shooting themselves in the foot it was the Jonathan Taylor show. His stat line is a horror show for Iowa fans: 31 carries for 250 yards, an absurd 8 YPC. They leaned up on him to put together a 4 minute scoring drive, giving the Badgers a 7-3 lead. They leaned on him to close out the half, putting together a 13 play, 76-yard drive that ate 6 minutes off the clock and ended with another touchdown. With the Badgers controlling the clock, Iowa couldn’t do anything on offense to close out the half other than kneel.
Coming out of half it was more of the same for the Hawkeyes, who couldn’t sustain anything on offense. Following a Hawkeye punt, the defense continued to stack the box, anticipating a heavy dose of Taylor, which is apparently why they didn’t see Quintez Cephus coming. Getting the ball at their own 14-yard line, Wisconsin only needed four plays to score a touchdown, thanks to a couple of deep passes to Cephus. With that, it was 21-6 and it looked like all was lost.
But wait, zombie Iowa offense lives! Out of the blue, Nate Stanley turned into Home Game Nate Stanley and drove the ball the length of the field, scoring a touchdown in just over 3 minutes, cutting the lead to 8. On the next possession Matt Hankins jumped all over a questionable Jack Coan pass and set the Hawkeyes up at the Wisconsin 47-yard line. The Hawkeyes settled for field goal when they needed a touchdown and made it a 4 point game.
At that point, Wisconsin just gave the ball to Taylor and let him do what he needed to do: run time off the clock. Iowa needed a stop and needed Wisconsin not to score points. Wisconsin scored points, kicking a field goal, making it an 8 point game again. On the ensuing Iowa drive, the Hawkeyes did something brilliant:
On an extremely weird 2-point conversion, Iowa ran a QB draw, that kind of looked like a broken play. Stanley was crushed at the line and didn’t convert, making it 24-22 in favor of the Badgers.
Just like the previous defensive possession the Hawkeyes needed a stop and…well…they didn’t get it. Taylor kept running and running and running and Iowa just ran out of time. There was magic to close out the third quarter and in the fourth quarter but by then it was too late. The Hawkeyes suffered a death by 1,000 cuts at the hands of Taylor and Wisconsin wins 24-22.
The loss closes the door on the division and Iowa has put together another meaningless season when it comes to actually attempting to win the Big Ten. This sets up a home game against what should be a top 10 Minnesota team. Iowa, for some reason, usually wins these games. Why? Because they don’t mean anything. And all they do is absolve the staff from anyone pointing fingers or asking questions about how they ended up here in the first place.
Maybe next year, Hawkeye fans.
But probably not.