IOWA CITY – Two starts into his career, Spencer Petras has one thing figured out.
“We’ve got to find a way to finish better,’’ the Iowa quarterback said after watching Northwestern overcome a 17-0 deficit after one quarter to slip past the Hawkeyes 21-20 on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
The Wildcats collected just one touchdown off of the three drive-killing interceptions thrown by Petras in the second half, but that was enough for Northwestern to erase Iowa’s 20-14 halftime lead and leave the Hawkeyes at 0-2 for the first time since 2000.
Saturday’s setback was much like the one which preceded it a week earlier at Purdue when the Boilermakers erased a 20-14 Iowa lead in the fourth quarter to win 24-20.
“It’s been the same thing two weeks in a row,’’ defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon said. “We’ve got to finish.’’
Northwestern finished off the Hawkeyes after Brandon Joseph recorded the first of his two interceptions, stepping in front of a Petras pass and returning it 18 yards to the Iowa 34-yard line a little over five minutes into the third quarter.
Eight plays later, the Wildcats took their first lead of the game on a two-yard touchdown run by Jesse Brown with 6:05 remaining in the quarter.
Punts ended Iowa’s next two drives before Joseph and Blake Gallagher each wrapped their arms around passes that glanced off the hands of Sam LaPorta in the fourth quarter, thwarting Hawkeye comeback hopes.
“It was frustrating, very frustrating,’’ said Petras, who completed 26-of-50 passes for 216 of the 293 yards generated by the Iowa offense.
Petras said he may have put the tipped pass just a bit much in front of LaPorta’s reach.
“Credit Northwestern with the way they played,’’ Petras said. “They’re a good Big Ten team and they got us.’’
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said the Wildcats’ ability to stifle the Hawkeyes’ ground game created issues.
Tyler Goodson collected 43 of the 77 yards Iowa totaled on the ground, a team effort that included just 35 yards in the final two quarters.
The Hawkeyes finished the game with 51 pass attempts and just 23 carries.
“We didn’t run the ball effectively, not with much consistency at all, and that mix isn’t going to win many games,’’ Ferentz said.
Sustaining early success proved problematic for Iowa.
“We got off to the kind of start we wanted, but we couldn’t keep it going,’’ linebacker Seth Benson said.
The Wildcats, who moved to 2-0 with the win, assisted the Hawkeyes in getting off to the start they wanted.
After playing turnover-free football in its opening-game rout of Maryland, Northwestern turned the ball over twice in the first six minutes Saturday.
Iowa made the Wildcats pay on both occasions, grabbing a quick 14-0 lead.
Terry Roberts recovered a fumbled attempt at a punt return on the Northwestern 7-yard line, positioning Petras to hit Brandon Smith with a 7-yard touchdown pass with 11:36 remaining in the first quarter.
Five plays later, Zack VanValkenburg recovered a Isaiah Bowser fumble at the Wildcats’ 45-yard line.
A 20-yard pass from Petras to Ihmir Smith-Marsette positioned Iowa to double its lead, opening a 14-0 margin following a 15-yard touchdown run by Goodson with 8:36 remaining in the first quarter.
“We got off to a fast start, did a lot of good things, but you have to play a full 60 minutes,’’ Ferentz said.
Limited to 42 rushing yards in the first half, the Hawkeyes were only able to add Keith Duncan field goals of 22 and 47 yards to its score over the rest of the half.
The Wildcats clawed their way back into the game with a pair of lengthy drives.
Kyric McGowan cut into a 17-0 deficit with a three-yard touchdown run to cap a 16-play, 75-yard march before Brown ran one yard to finish off a 14-play, 79-yard drive that pulled Northwestern within 20-14 with 1:25 to play in the opening half.
The Wildcats, led by 85 rushing yards from Bowser, collected 102 of their 143 rushing yards in a second quarter which saw Northwestern accumulate 135 of the 273 yards they had in the game.
“They ran the ball hard, but we have to be stronger,’’ Nixon said. “The d-line, the linebackers, we needed to shut them down in the second quarter. We didn’t and it gave them a chance. We’ve got to do better.’’
Northwestern 21, Iowa 20
Northwestern 0 14 7 0 — 21
Iowa 17 3 0 0 — 20
IOW—B.Smith 7 pass from Petras (Duncan kick), 11:42.
IOW—Goodson 15 run (Duncan kick), 8:36.
IOW—FG Duncan 22, 1:43.
NW—McGowan 3 run (Kuhbander kick), 10:20.
IOW—FG Duncan 47, 7:09.
NW—J.Brown 1 run (Kuhbander kick), 1:25.
NW—J.Brown 2 run (Kuhbander kick), 6:05.
First downs 18 20
Rushes-yards 60-143 23-77
Passing 130 216
Comp-Att-Int 11-18-1 26-51-3
Return Yards 10 41
Punts-Avg. 6-41.7 4-49.0
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 0-0
Penalties-Yards 6-45 3-20
Time of Possession 33:33 26:27
RUSHING—Northwestern, Bowser 25-85, Ramsey 12-26, J.Brown 10-21, McGowan 3-15, Marty 1-2, D.Anderson 7-1, (Team) 2-(minus 7). Iowa, Goodson 13-43, Sargent 4-20, Petras 5-14, Pottebaum 1-0.
PASSING—Northwestern, Ramsey 11-18-1-130. Iowa, Petras 26-50-3-216, (Team) 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING—Northwestern, McGowan 5-63, Chiaokhiao-Bowman 4-37, D.Anderson 1-21, Mangieri 1-9. Iowa, Smith-Marsette 7-84, LaPorta 6-46, B.Smith 3-19, Ragaini 3-16, Tracy 2-33, Goodson 2-8, Sargent 1-6, Kelly-Martin 1-4, Beyer 1-0.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—Iowa, Shudak 52.
NORTHWESTERN – Bergin 6-6-12, Paddy Fisher6-5-11, Gallagher 4-7-11, Pace 4-2-6, Ruiz 3-1-4.
IOWA – Benson 10-3-13, Nixon 6-5-11, Niemann 2-8-10, Moss 7-2-9, Golston 4-3-7, Heflin 4-3-7, VanValkenburg 2-5-7.
NORTHWESTERN – Leota 1-1.
IOWA – Nixon 1.5-15, Golston .5-3, Evans 1-3.
Tackles for loss
NORTHWESTERN – Gallagher 1.5-4, Pace 1-4, Saunders 1-1, Leota 1-1, Bergin .5-1, Fisher .5-1, Brown .5-1.
IOWA – Nixon 3-23, Golston 1.5-7, Evans 1-3, Nieman .5-1, Heflin .5-1, VanValkenburg .5-0.
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