BY TIM TAUER
Madison, WI — Today’s battle for the Heartland Trophy consisted of two very evenly matched teams – both in style and productivity. The name of the game for Wisconsin (3-1) and Iowa (4-0) is to make your opponent beat you between the trenches. Run until your opponent wears out, begins to cheat, then drop back and throw one deep.
Unlike the strategy against Hawaii one week earlier, Wisconsin sought to balance the run with quick passes, running just four times and passing for five on their opening drive.
Dare Ogunbowale started things off with a two yard run up the middle. Film would suggest another run to setup a third and short situation for Stave. However, Stave dropped back and threw to Alex Erickson for a first down. Knowing the toughness of Iowa’s defense, Chryst opted to pass on second and long throughout much of the game in an attempt to avoid as many third down situations as possible.
This strategy worked well against Iowa in the opening drive as the Badgers were able to put three points on the board.
Iowa decided to stick to the strategy that has worked for them all season. Having a superb quarterback in C.J. Beathard, they are a situational offense.
When second and eight or more, the Hawkeyes pass 80% of the time, and they pretty much stuck to this formula the entire game. Like opponents in previous weeks, it worked well against Wisconsin as the Hawkeyes were able nail a 27 yard field goal on their second drive.
The Hawkeyes would then score again after a Stave fumble, giving Iowa the lead 10-3 going into the second half.
The Badgers didn’t have any luck reaching the end zone; Something very different from previous weeks. It would turn out that any scoring for the Badgers was left up to kicker Rafael Gaglianone. His leg seemed to be on point, going 2/3 with all attempts from 42 yards or more.
But down by four mid-way through the third quarter the Badgers knew relying on Gaglianone alone would not win the game. For a moment, it looked as though their luck had changed when Beathard fumbled the ball when scrambling to avoid a rush. Wisconsin recovered the ball with excellent field position.
However, with just two yards to go Stave fumbled the ball for the second time, and the Hawkeyes were able to avoid a Badgers touchdown.
The Badgers were unable to put anymore points on the board but were miraculously still in it late in the fourth quarter. The game came down to the very end. With less than a minute left and deep in Iowa territory, the Badgers had plenty of time to make a play and win the game.
But unfortunately for Stave and company, with 40 seconds left on fourth and two, a failed pass attempt ended the Badgers chances of a comeback win and the Hawkeyes defeated Wisconsin 10-6.
Both teams must address the turnover issue going into their next game. With a total of seven turnovers, both Iowa and Wisconsin fell victim to critical interceptions and fumbles. This is especially significant for two organizations who play somewhat conservative ball to begin with.