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Overtime: Wisconsin Wins Late Again – Iowa Falls 28-17

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By Jack Brandsgard ( 09/23/18

IOWA CITY—Death by a thousand cuts. That’s what Wisconsin’s 10-play, 88-yard go-ahead touchdown drive felt like for Hawkeye fans.

The sold-out, striped crowd in Kinnick collectively exhaled after Alex Hornibrook found AJ Taylor in the seam for a 17-yard last-minute touchdown to steal a win from the jaws of defeat. Wisconsin added another late score to secure a 28-17 victory and fasten its seat belt in the driver’s seat of the Big Ten West.

Uncharacteristic mistakes turned Iowa’s foot into a bloody stump. The costliest error came in the third quarter when Shaun Beyer bumped a rolling punt which Wisconsin then recovered on Iowa’s 10-yard line. The Badgers converted the blunder into seven points just three plays later.

Special teams mistakes were a theme for Iowa. Kyle Groeneweg nullified his 25-yard punt return by fumbling in Wisconsin territory. He also fair caught a punt on the 3-yard line. The fumble, fair catch, and Beyer’s blunder happened on three consecutive punt returns.

Iowa fans were frustrated with their team’s squandered opportunity, but there were plenty of positives to take away.

First, the errors the Hawkeyes made are all correctable. They weren’t due to physical shortcomings or lack of talent—they were mental mistakes that a detail-oriented coaching staff will iron out over the bye week.

More importantly, the offense continued its strong play by recording over 400 yards of total offense for the second-straight week. Nate Stanley had his best game of the season and flashed the arm talent that makes him an NFL prospect.

His best throw of the night came when he scrambled to his left and hardly set his feet before uncorking a 55-yard bomb to TJ Hockenson, who finished with a career-high 125 receiving yards. It was like a “500” throw in the backyard. Stanley threw from different angles, had better footwork than in previous weeks, and seemed in control. That’s encouraging.

Another good sign for Hawkeye fans is that Ivory Kelly-Martin appeared to be 100 percent after missing the last two weeks with an ankle injury. Kelly-Martin looked like his usual shifty self and finished with 72 yards on 14 carries.

Both Stanley and Kirk Ferentz praised the offensive line for creating lanes for the backs and giving Stanley time to survey the field.

The Hawkeye defense wanted to make Alex Hornibrook beat them. He’s more of a game-manager and Iowa wanted to put pressure on him by taking away Wisconsin’s run. Easier said than done.

Since 2015, the Badgers have failed to reach 100 yards on the ground only once. So Wisconsin’s 210 rushing yards on Saturday are more a testament to its power run game than Iowa’s run defense, which stifled opponents the first three weeks.

Wisconsin executed down the stretch and emerged victorious. The loss gives Iowa motivation heading into a bye week before traveling to Minnesota for another trophy game. Expect the Hawkeyes to play cleaner than they did Saturday night.