Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
Earlier today the No. 22 ranked Wisconsin Badgers headed to Iowa City to face the Iowa Hawkeyes. The two teams met at Kinnick Stadium to battle for the Heartland Trophy.
Rejoice Badger fans, the bronzed-bull is staying in Madison for at least one more year. The Badgers defeated the Hawkeyes 28-9 in an impressive defensive battle. As the game went on Wisconsin’s offense got better but its defense was great from the opening kickoff.
The trophy series is tied at 4-4 but Wisconsin took the all-time series lead in the rivalry pushing their record to 43-42-2 over Iowa.
How It Went Down
Bucky received the opening kickoff and Stave was promptly hit and threw an interception. Iowa took a 3-0 lead halfway through the first quarter as the Badgers’ defense bent but did not break. Wisconsin’s defense was handicapped without middle linebacker Chris Borland, who was a game time decision. Borland’s backup, junior Marcus Trotter, made a Borland-type tackle for loss late in the first quarter and the Badger defense began to flex its muscles. It wouldn’t be the last big play Trotter would make.
Sophomore quarterback Joel Stave struggled with accuracy throwing into the tough wind at Kinnick Stadium. The wind also resulted in numerous short punts for the Badgers. The Hawkeyes capitalized on the quality field position by tacking on another field goal for a 6-0 advantage with 4:52 left in the second quarter.
The Badgers were having trouble getting anything going offensively until Melvin Gordon III and James White rattled off runs of 13 and 11 yards. Then with only 1:49 left in the first half Stave made his first quality pass of the game and it went for a 44 yard touchdown to senior tight end Jacob Pedersen. Stave looked off the safety and hit the open Pedersen. Despite being outplayed by Iowa for much of the first half Wisconsin ended up with a 7-6 lead heading into the locker room.
The second half started out with Trotter again making a nice tackle for loss on Iowa’s workhorse running back Mark Weisman. Wisconsin squandered two more possessions before sophomore cornerback Darius Hillary made his first interception of the season picking off a pass from Iowa’s quarterback Jake Rudock.
The very next play another Stave pass found the end zone, this time to his favorite target, senior Jared Abbrederis. It was a beautiful throw across the middle but Abbrederis paid the price as he was hit hard and didn’t return to the game with an apparent rib/chest injury. Abbrederis spent the rest of the game patrolling the sidelines; the injury did not seem like a major concern.
Iowa’s Jake Rudock was injured on Hillary’s interception and did not return to the game. When Bucky kicked off freshman C.J. Beathard took over the Hawkeye’s huddle but Iowa went three and out. The Badgers’ next drive was stalled with a holding penalty and they punted the ball back.
In a move of either desperation or inspiration the Hawkeyes turned to backup running back Jordan Canzeri and he responded by giving Iowa life. Canzeri rattled off a 43 yard run, the longest run of the season for Iowa. The Badgers’ defense responded by holding the Hawkeyes to another field goal.
At the end of the third quarter the Badgers led14-9, but there was not Jump Around in Iowa City.
The Badgers’ first drive of the fourth quarter stalled and the Hawkeyes got the ball back with a chance to take the lead. On the second play of their drive the Hawkeyes found themselves in a 2nd and 15. Beathard dropped back and Trotter made another big play reminiscent of the man he was replacing. Trotter crushed the freshman quarterback and the ball flew up into the air and Pat Muldoon made the most athletic interception you will ever see a defensive tackle make. Muldoon left his feet, snatched the ball out of the air and landed on his back giving the Badgers the ball with great field position.
Wisconsin’s running game finally began to look like Wisconsin’s usual running game and James White scored the 40th touchdown of his impressive and underappreciated career. White made a great cut to find the end zone from eleven yards out. With 6:29 left in the game the Badgers held a 21-9 lead over the home team.
The defense of the Badgers continued its dominance and the forced Iowa to punt again. White added another touchdown, this time from two yards out to stretch the lead to 28-9. Iowa attempted to add some garbage points but Bucky reached into its pride reserves and kept the Hawkeyes out of the end zone, both on that drive and for the day.
The game ball goes to Marcus Trotter for filling in for the injured Borland and playing great. Trotter made numerous big plays including hitting the quarterback on the game-changing interception early in the fourth quarter. Honorable mention goes to James White who rushed for 132 yards and two scores on Melvin Gordon III’s worst game of the season (only 62 rushing yards).
The injury to Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin’s only reliable receiving threat, is the only dark spot on this impressive road victory over their bitter rival to the South. We can only hope he can rest up and heal over the weak and be ready to play against BYU next Saturday.
This win was the next step towards the Badgers finishing with a ten win regular season and a possible BCS bowl game invitation. Stave recovered from his early interception and the Badgers’ defense looked as formidable as anyone in the country. Kinnick Stadium is a hard place to win and as the game went on the Badgers made it look easy.