Hawkeyes hang tough, but Badgers better

Andrew Logue

Iowa's Damond Powell breaks a tackle in the first half of Saturday’s Big Ten Conference game against Wisconsin.

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Don't spend a lot of time re-hashing Saturday's loss.

There wasn't too much Iowa's football team could have done differently during a 26-24 loss to 14th-ranked Wisconsin.

The play calling was aggravatingly predictable in the first half, but offensive coordinator Greg Davis made adjustments.

The Hawkeyes ended up with 412 total yards — the most Wisconsin has allowed this season.

Melvin Gordon sliced through Iowa's defense — showing speed and patience on a clinching 23-yard touchdown scamper — finishing with 200 rushing yards.

But even when the Hawkeyes were holding him in check, Wisconsin was rolling. Gordon ran for 39 yards before halftime, and the Badgers were up 16-3.

And for the most part, special teams was a push.

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Let's face it, Wisconsin was simply better.

"There's not a column for almost contained him or almost won," Hawkeye linebacker Quinton Alston said. "It counts as a loss at the end of the day.

"Honestly, I don't know if I can even say it, but I'm pissed off."

The Badgers (9-2 overall, 6-2 in the Big Ten) moved on to a showdown next week against Minnesota. The winner claims the West Division title.

The Hawkeyes (7-4, 4-3) must regroup before hosting Nebraska at 11 a.m. Friday.

A lot of the luster was knocked off that game early Saturday when the Cornhuskers were beaten 28-24 by Minnesota.

It's now a matter of pride and catching the attention of bowl scouts.

"That's what's going to keep our heads off of this game," receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley said. "Losses like this, you feel them.

"All we can do is stay focused on next week."

Iowa made a favorable showing in its most important matchup of the season, hanging with Wisconsin until time expired.

The Badgers took a 19-3 lead. The Hawkeyes scored twice, trimming the margin to 19-17 early in the fourth quarter.

Jake Rudock's two-point conversion pass to tie fell incomplete.

The Badgers answered with what might have been a spirit-crushing 75-yard drive. They faced a third-and-14, but a swing pass to Gordon netted 35-yards.

A few minutes later, he was following a wall of blockers into the end zone.

Good teams do that. Wisconsin is really good.

RELATED: Brown: Third-down blues cost Iowa a victory |

If you want to be frustrated, hit rewind and watch Iowa's losses to Maryland and Minnesota.

Those were embarrassing efforts, nothing comparable to what the 68,610 fans saw against Wisconsin.

"It's always fun when you're in that position to compete," Martin-Manley said. "We fought back in that second half to give us a chance."

Don't spend a lot of what-ifs on Gordon and his beefy offensive line. Imagine what might have been if the Hawkeyes hadn't been so lackadaisical in College Park, Md.

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Heck, what if Iowa hadn't blown a double-digit lead against Iowa State?

The Hawkeyes didn't wilt when facing Wisconsin. Even when the Badgers appeared to land a haymaker, Rudock led the offense to a touchdown that made it 26-24.

Again, third downs were a killer.

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"It's always tough losing games," tight end Jake Duzey said. "That's a great team out there, and we really grew as an offensive unit, as a team."

With Wisconsin, it's hard to be angry. Actually, you're impressed.

"We grew today," Alston said. "And I'm going to think of all the positive things I can, turn it into a positive spin.

"We've just got to continue to grow."