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Iowa 17, Northwestern 12: Catnipped

Kirk Ferentz turned to backup QB Alex Padilla for the Hawkeyes’ first win in three games.

NCAA Football: Iowa at Northwestern
Alex Padilla gave Iowa an instant spark on Saturday night.
Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

We saw something we have rarely seen from Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa Hawkeyes on Saturday night. The head man pulled the plug on his starting quarterback in the first quarter and the Hawkeyes responded nearly instantly.

The night had a different feel right from the start as Iowa won the toss and elected to defer, rather than taking the ball as usual. The Hawkeye defense did their part forcing a three and out.

In their first possession, Iowa looked to establish the run and got things going with a pair of Tyler Goodson runs for a first down, but immediately stalled out when they opted to throw on second and long. The punt would be the first of three consecutive for the Hawkeyes, who totaled just 26 yards on their first three possessions.

Spencer Petras went 2 for 4 on those three possession for just four total yards. He also threw a pair of passes into the dirt with wide open receivers. That was enough for Ferentz to make a call to the bullpen.

Alex Padilla came into the game on Iowa’s fourth possession after the Hawkeye defense forced their fourth straight punt from the Northwestern offense. Padilla came in and the Hawkeyes immediately looked like a new team. The offensive line formed a few clean pockets, Brian Ferentz opened up the playbook and got a few rollouts and things were clicking.

Padilla came out firing, going 3 for 4 for 45 yards on his first possession. Tyler Goodson capped things off with a 13-yard touchdown run to draw first blood.

With a lead, the Iowa defense turned up the pressure a bit. The Hawkeyes were in Andrew Marty’s face early and often, forcing some ill-timed passes. On Northwestern’s fifth possession, that ball-hawking Iowa defense finally came away with a turnover as Dane Belton picked off Marty.

Taking over at their own 17 yard line, the Hawkeyes again came out firing on offense. Alex Padilla completed 3 of 5 passes for 30 yards as Brian Ferentz balanced pass and run with Tyler Goodson ripping off a 41-yard gain. Arland Bruce IV capped off the drive with a 10-yard TD run on a jet sweep and the Hawkeyes jumped out to what seemed like a commanding 14-0 lead.

The Iowa defense would again force a punt on the next possession before we saw the another uncharacteristic special teams gaffe just a week after Max Cooper muffed a punt against Wisconsin. The Hawkeye offense finally stalled out for the first time with Padilla under center, forcing a Tory Taylor punt from just short of midfield. Northwestern’s Raymond Niro III came unblocked right down central and blocked Taylor’s punt giving the Wildcats the ball at the Iowa 10 yard line.

The Hawkeye defense held stout, forcing a field goal to make it a 14-3 lead with just over 2 minutes remaining. Ferentz opted to play it conservative, holding timeouts and not throwing early in the possession, but more success for Tyler Goodson had Iowa in position to make a run at a field goal. However, Iowa would come up short and take the 14-3 lead into the half with the ball coming back out of the break.

After drawing a pass interference call on another deep shot to Keagan Johnson, the Iowa offense stalled out quickly on their first possession of the second half. They would trade punts with Northwestern before then trading field goals on their next two possessions.

That set up a 17-6 Iowa lead heading into the fourth quarter. Things really slowed down in the final period as the Hawkeyes punted on back-to-back possessions, sandwiching a Northwestern punt. The Wildcats began to gain some momentum on their third possession of the quarter aided by a pair of pass interference calls on Matt Hankins.

But Hankins’ fellow cornerback Jermari Harris stepped up picking off Marty in the endzone to kill the Northwestern scoring threat.

Iowa went back to the ground game with possession at their 20 and the clock now their friend. Tyler Goodson ripped off 37 yards on the first two plays of the drive to move the Hawkeyes into Northwestern territory before things would again stall out on the offense.

Despite coming away with no points, Iowa burned nearly four minutes of clock leaving Northwestern with 85 yards to go and just 4:20 to come away two scores. The Hawkeye defense was tested as the Wildcats pushed the ball down the field on their first drive and came away with a relatively easy touchdown thanks to some poor tackling the entire drive.

Marty hit running back Evan Hull for a 31-yard touchdown catch after breaking a couple of tackles across the middle of the field and outrunning everyone. Northwestern would fail to convert the 2-point conversion setting up an expected onside kick down 17-12 with 2:21 to go.

Instead the Cats kicked a mid-range one to Tyler Goodson to set up the Hawkeyes with the ball at their own 30. But Iowa struggled to get much going on the ground and opted not to take any chances throwing it. They forced Northwestern to use all three timeouts before punting it to the NW 24-yard line with 1:51 to go.

Andrew Marty came out on first down and promptly threw his third pick of the game as Dane Belton caught an easy floater at the Northwestern 40 yard line to seal the win for the Hawkeyes. That was Iowa’s 19th interception of the year, the most of any team in the nation.

Padilla finished the night 18 of 28 for 172 yards. He didn’t come away with any touchdowns, but also avoided throwing any interceptions. Importantly, Tyler Goodson got things going with 141 yards and a TD on 20 carries. Keagan Johnson led the way for Hawkeye receivers with 68 yards on 5 catches. Arland Bruce had 30 yards on three catches, but also added the 10-yard rushing touchdown.

Belton led the defense with a pair of interceptions. Jermari Harris added his name to the list with his first career pick. Here’s a look at the full stats.

Iowa is back in Kinnick Stadium a week from today playing for Floyd of Rosedale. They 7-2 Hawkeyes will take on the 6-3 Minnesota Golden Gophers in a game with Big Ten West implications.

Alex Padilla seems to be locked in to the starting spot for the Hawkeyes as they enter the home stretch in a quest to make a return to Indianapolis.