Iowa running back Akrum Wadley (25) is tackled by Wisconsin's Ryan Connelly (43) just shy of the end zone during the game between Iowa and Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. The Hawkeyes fell to the Badgers 38-14. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Hawkeye offense MIA in Madison

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In a game most expected to be relatively close, Wisconsin’s defense smothered Iowa’s offense, and things weren’t even close.

By Adam Hensley

adam-hensley@uiowa.edu

For those trying to put Iowa’s 38-14 loss to Wisconsin into perspective, here’s a comparison for you.

Former Hawkeye C.J. Beathard, now the San Francisco 49ers’ starting quarterback, threw an 83-yard touchdown pass on Sunday.

That one pass covered 17 more yards than the entire Iowa offense did on Nov. 11.

In Madison, Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes just could not get anything going on offense. The unit, which scored six touchdowns a week earlier, couldn’t put any points on the board and only mustered 66 yards of total offense.

Defensive back Josh Jackson scored both of Iowa’s touchdowns on interception returns, the first coming on the opening drive.

“[It was a] formation I’ve seen in the film room,” Jackson said. “I kind of figured they would try to get to the out route. I just saw the ball, saw the route.”

Against Ohio State a week earlier, Iowa opened the game with a Pick-6 on the Buckeyes’ first play from scrimmage.

The two contests’ outcomes couldn’t have been more different.

Iowa’s offense, one week removed from a performance in which it fired on all cylinders, fell to pieces as the game wore on.

The Badgers scored 17-straight points after Jackson’s interception return, capitalizing on Hawkeye three-and-outs in the first half.

Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook threw his third interception of the day (the second one went to safety Jake Gervase) within the first four minutes of the second half. The pass found its way to Jackson for his second pick, and once again, he returned it for a touchdown.

Little did the Hawkeyes know that Jackson’s two returns (43 and 52 yards) would cover more yards than the offense.

“It’s just college football,” running back James Butler said. “Every day, it’s a different game. [Wisconsin] came out ready to play, and we came out ready to play — we just weren’t able to execute as we should have.”

Butler, along with fellow running back Akrum Wadley, led a ground attack that put up 25 yards on 26 carries.

In the passing game, quarterback Nate Stanley struggled, but it wasn’t all his fault. The sophomore did miss a few receivers on throws, but his receivers’ drops didn’t help.

On one throw, Stanley tossed perfect pass to tight end Noah Fant, who beat his defender and had open field in front of him, but the ball bounced off his outstretched hands — just one example of a plethora of missed opportunities on offense.

“Our defense tried to keep us in the football game — they did a good job of that for a while — but at the end of the day, we just couldn’t do the things that you have to do to have any kind of chance [to win],” head coach Kirk Ferentz said.

Stanley finished 8-of-24 with 41 yards, an interception, and 2 fumbles – his worst stat line as a starter.

With 6:10 left in the third quarter and Iowa down by only 3 points, Stanley was sacked and lost the ball. Wisconsin recovered and turned it for a score, and that turned out to be the catalyst for a Badger beatdown.

Wisconsin tailback Bradrick Shaw scored on an 8-yard run in the fourth quarter, and A.J. Taylor caught a touchdown pass with slightly more than seven minutes remaining, capping off the final scoring play, and putting the Badgers up by 24.

Iowa moves its focus to Purdue, which the Hawkeyes will host on Nov. 18, but questions still remain on how to reignite a once high-powered offense. 

“We’re not good enough offensively to not execute,” Ferentz said.

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