Today we traveled to Camp Randall Stadium for the Big 10 opener of the 19th ranked Wisconsin Badgers and the Iowa Hawkeyes. Staying undefeated, the Hawkeyes took home the Heartland Trophy in this hard fought rivalry match up. Although both teams looked sloppy throughout, the game went down to the final seconds as Wisconsin failed to convert in the redzone on 4th and 2, down by less than a touchdown.
Read our game recap here and check out our photos Iowa’s Big 10 victory below.
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.
But one of many similarities between these two programs is the ability to stop the run. Going into today’s game Wisconsin didn’t allow a single touchdown the past three weeks, and no Iowa opponent has been able to score a single rushing touchdown.
The Badgers won the toss and elected to receive. It didn’t take long to realize Badgers head coach Paul Chryst isn’t scared to deviate from the previous week’s game plan – even after a dominant performance.
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.
It has been somewhat of a slow start to the running game by Wisconsin football standards, but last week the Badgers (3-1) seemed to finally settle into the adjustments made on the ground after Corey Clement’s injury a few weeks ago. The Badgers (3-1) put on quite a show, blowing out Hawaii (2-2) 28-0 and putting up over 200 yards running for the first time this season.
A true test of the run game comes this week in Wisconsin’s conference opener against the Iowa Hawkeyes (4-0). Iowa has allowed 84.0 rushing yards per game and is just one of two teams who have yet to allow a rushing touchdown. With such a dominant run defense, Kirk Ferentz will try to set the tempo by shutting down Wisconsin runners Dare Ogunbowale and Tawiwan Deal as early as possible.
Thus, the key to a Badgers victory this Saturday may very well have to come through the air. After a rocky (and at times abysmal) 2014 season for Stave, the 6′ 5” 225lb senior seems to be playing like a smart, more experienced quarterback. He currently has the highest completion percentage of his collegiate career, and if he can keep from turning the ball over, could capitalize on opportunities from defenses who focus too much on the Badgers’ run attack.
Stave had great success against Iowa the last time these two teams met, going 11-for-14 for 139 yards at Kinnick Stadium. It was a crucial victory for Wisconsin, as defeating Iowa (and Minnesota one week later) secured them a spot in the Big Ten Championship.
Other than the 35-17 loss against Alabama (3-1), Wisconsin opponents have yet to score more than three points a game, with two of Wisconsin’s opponents unable to put any points on the board what-so-ever.
However, the days of playing Miami (OH), Troy, and Hawaii are over, and Big Ten play begins.
Iowa has, arguably, the best quarterback the organization has had in a very long time in C.J. Beathard. He’s efficient, accurate, and can run if need be.
Bearthard’s deep ball, however, isn’t as fine tuned as the rest of his play. He’s missed key scoring opportunities when going deep and has thrown some questionable long-balls. Should he throw one up, expect Badgers backs to go beyond preventative defense and attack the passing game in an attempt to create turnovers.
But as Badgers and Hawkeyes fans know, this game isn’t just about improving your spot in the ranking or getting a conference victory; Its a storied rivalry dating back to 1894. As-of-date, these two teams have met on the gridiron a staggering 79 times with the Badgers leading 44-42-2 (.511).
For Paul Chryst this rivalry is especially significant, having experienced it as a player, offensive coordinator, and now head coach for the Wisconsin Badgers. The rivalry aspect of this game was certainly a part of Chryst’s game preparation.
“Yeah, we’re going to talk about it, and I think it’s important” Says Chryst, “It’s one of the neat things I think that here at Wisconsin we have is we do have trophy games, and it’s part of the history of this program and tradition, and I want our guys to understand it and embrace it, so we’re definitely going to talk about it.”
The Badgers will host Iowa this Saturday at Camp Randall. If history tells us anything, this game will be an aggressive, no-holds-barred meeting between two great football programs.
Prediction: Wisconsin 28, Iowa 13
Game time: Saturday, October 3,11:00 AM CT on ESPN; Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, WI
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