IOWA CITY, Ia. — It was another clinic in Kinnick for the Wisconsin football team Saturday.
The Badgers gained 423 yards, held the ball for 37 minutes, committed no penalties and essentially snuffed out Iowa’s Big Ten West title hopes with a 17-9 victory before a sellout crowd of 70,585 at their home away from home.
It was Wisconsin’s fourth consecutive victory in Kinnick Stadium. And it gives Iowa its first three-game home losing streak since 2012, after previous setbacks against North Dakota State and Northwestern here.
“Those teams aren’t really to be taken lightly. They came in and they played hard. We played hard. The end result is they got the win,” Hawkeyes defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson said.
“That’s our home. We hate that feeling of someone coming in and taking what’s ours.”
No. 10 Wisconsin (5-2, 2-2 Big Ten Conference) held Iowa to 83 rushing yards and just three field goals. It was the first game in three seasons in which the Hawkeyes couldn’t generate a touchdown.
They couldn’t generate much of anything against a Badger defense that entered play sixth in the nation in third-down conversions. Iowa finished 2-of-13 on third down.
Its longest drive came in the fourth quarter, trailing 14-6. The Hawkeyes ran 11 plays and gained 60 yards in 4 minutes, 6 seconds.
That drive ended with a missed 38-yard field goal by Keith Duncan, the first of the freshman’s season. It also led to some postgame confusion when coach Kirk Ferentz was asked why he didn’t try to keep the drive going on fourth-and-5 from the Wisconsin 20-yard line with 5:25 left in the game, needing a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie the score.
“You have to score twice. It gets down to that. Somehow, some way you’re going to have to score twice,” Ferentz answered.
“If there’s a little bit less, fourth-and-2, something like that, we probably would have gone for the touchdown.”
It was that kind of day for Iowa (5-3, 3-2). The Hawkeyes gained only 236 yards for their worst showing since that Week 3 loss to North Dakota State.
Wisconsin missed two field goals and lost a fumble that the Hawkeyes recovered in their end zone. Three Iowa drives started in Wisconsin territory — and led to six points.
“The frustrating thing is we beat ourselves — the ticky-tack penalties (five for 30 yards) and the mental mistakes, the small things that we don’t do. This was a winnable game. Every game we play was a winnable game. It’s frustrating to lose. But we’re better than that. Speaking for our offense, we’re better than that,” tailback Akrum Wadley said after leading the Hawkeyes with 44 rushing yards and 72 receiving.
“Sense of urgency, that’s what it is. It’s crazy how at the end of the game we find a rhythm. We needed to do that early.”
After Iowa’s missed field goal, Wisconsin promptly drove 62 yards and pushed its lead to 17-6 on a 36-yard field goal by Andrew Endicott.
The Hawkeyes got some life when Desmond King returned the ensuing kickoff 77 yards to the Wisconsin 23-yard line, leading to a 25-yard Duncan field goal with 43 seconds left. But Ron Coluzzi’s onside kick attempt bounced out of bounds and the Badgers ran out the clock and sprinted off the field with the Heartland Trophy. It was the sixth consecutive victory by the visiting team in this rivalry.
“The kids put it out there and that’s what you appreciate as a coach,” Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst said.
His team has lost only to unbeaten Michigan and Ohio State, by a total of 10 points. The Badgers host Nebraska next week in another key Big Ten West matchup.
Iowa finds itself on the outside looking in at the conference race. The Hawkeyes will spend their bye week pondering what has gone wrong in a season that dawned eight weeks ago with expectations of a repeat Big Ten West championship.
Three home losses have derailed that. And Iowa fans may not see another win at Kinnick this season, with remaining home games against No. 4 Michigan and No. 9 Nebraska.
“You don’t want to lose, period. But losing at home especially stings. Especially in front of our great fans. They come out and they support us and obviously they want to see us get a great victory just as much as we want to win,” Iowa senior tailback LeShun Daniels Jr. said after the game.
“That’s something that’s tough on us. We know that we have to be better.”