Sports columnists Chad Leistikow and Danny Lawhon breakdown the Iowa Hawkeyes' next match up with the Wisconsin Badgers. Michael Zamora/The Register
MADISON, Wis. — Iowa's secondary has produced three turnovers to keep the Hawkeyes close, but the offense hasn't gotten on track at Camp Randall Stadium.
No. 3 Wisconsin is taking advantage of a tiring Iowa defense and leads 17-7.
Iowa is minus starting safety Amani Hooker, but has responded with two interceptions, one of which Josh Jackson returned for a touchdown, and a fumble (also forced by Jackson).
Jackson, a junior cornerback, picked Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook on the fourth play of the game, leaping to snare an underthrown pass and returning it 43 yards untouched down the Wisconsin sideline for a quick Hawkeye lead.
It was the second consecutive week that the Hawkeyes had a pick-six on the opening possession of a game. Last Saturday, Hooker did it on the first play in a 55-24 demolishing of Ohio State.
But Hooker suffered a bruise in that game and is out for the Wisconsin matchup. Senior Miles Taylor replaced him in the starting lineup.
Wisconsin has 12 first downs to Iowa's one and is controlling play when not turning the football over. The Badgers' Kendric Pryor has both touchdowns, on a 25-yard end-around and a beautiful 12-yard catch.
Here's what we learned in the first half:
HAWKEYE OFFENSE STUCK: Iowa's offense put up 48 points in manhandling Ohio State a week ago. It's been a shadow of that effort so far, hurting itself with untimely penalties and dropped passes. Iowa also has been plagued by poor field position. Senior running back Akrum Wadley is splitting time with James Butler and has yet to get on track, with six carries for 13 yards. Quarterback Nate Stanley has completed three passes for five yards. Neither Noah Fant nor T.J. Hockenson has caught one yet. The tight ends combined for four touchdowns last week.
JACKSON IS ON A TEAR: Jackson had three interceptions last week and has broken up 15 passes on the year. Yet Wisconsin targeted him on its first pass, an incompletion, then tested him again on a third-and-13 throw one play later. It was a curious strategy. Jackson made the Badgers pay. He has six interceptions this season. Jackson later forced a fumble that cornerback Manny Rugamba recovered.
GERVASE GETS IN ON THE ACTION: Junior safety Jake Gervase made a beautiful play on a deep Hornibrook pass later in the first quarter. Gervase had a receiver well-covered and turned his head just in time to snare the football at Iowa's 6-yard line.
DO YOU LIKE PUNTING? There have been eight punts in the game, and four of them have traveled more than 50 yards. Iowa's Colten Rastetter is averaging 42 yards on his six boots, but has gotten worse as the game has gone on. Wisconsin's Anthony Lotti unleashed a 59-yarder to pin Iowa deep in the second quarter and then outdid himself with a 62-yarder.
WISCONSIN RB PACKS A PUNCH: Badgers freshman Jonathan Taylor is averaging 152 yards on the ground per game, and he has been punishing Iowa behind an aggressive offensive line. .Taylor has 86 yards on 15 carries. Taylor also had a big fumble near midfield.