By SCOTT JACKSON
Courier sports writer
---- — IOWA CITY – It started out so well. It ended so badly.
So it goes in 2013 for the Iowa Hawkeye football team.
After making the first quarter a one-sided affair with the 24th-ranked team in the nation on Saturday, Iowa saw the tables turned on them again in the second half. Not only did Wisconsin flip the roles of the two teams from the first half to the second, they did so at the expense of the Hawkeyes sophomore starting quarterback.
Jake Rudock not only threw a critical interception out of his own end zone in the third quarter, setting up an instant touchdown strike by the Badgers, but the Hawkeye signal caller also hurt his knee on the play. Freshman backup C.J. Beathard completed just four of 17 passes in relief of Rudock and also threw a big interception that Wisconsin almost instantly capitalized on for another touchdown in the fourth quarter.
It all added up to a 28-9 win for the Madison visitors in the renewal of the ‘Heartland’ trophy game. The Badgers keep the Golden Bull, a winning streak and plenty of confidence after winning in a hostile environment with almost 70,000 fans providing a very noisy distraction.
“First of all, that’s a big time college football game,” Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen said after his first win in Iowa City. “There were great kids on both sides of the ball with a lot of fight and that’s what it should be like.”
“There will be some sore men in the morning, that’s for sure. I’m proud of the young men of this program for how they played. They kept on fighting and battling.”
Not that Iowa didn’t answer the Badgers fight, even after the losing Rudock midway through the third quarter. With Beathard at quarterback, Iowa looked to its bench for even more offensive production as Jordan Canzeri stepped up when he was called upon in the second half.
A 43-yard burst on the second series under Beathard by Canzari put Iowa back inside Wisconsin’s 20 with hopes of scoring a touchdown to respond for Jared Abbrederis’ 20-yard scoring catch immediately after Darius Hillary’s pick on Rudock’s final pass of the day. Instead, the Hawkeyes gained only five total yards on the next three plays and had to settle for Mike Meyer’s third field goal of the day to pull within 14-9 going into the fourth.
“Anytime you are going to be put in, you have to take advantage of the opportunity. I just wanted to do something that would ignite the crowd and give our team a spark,” Canzeri said after rushing for a team-high 58 yards on five carries. “(Wisconsin) is a good team with a good defense, but we hurt ourselves in a lot of different ways.”
After getting the ball back on its own five-yard line, it appeared Beathard might have found his own spark midway through the fourth quarter. A 17-yard pass was caught by Don Shumpert for a first down, getting the Hawkeyes away from their own end zone.
Two plays later, however, Beathard made his first big mistake as an Iowa quarterback. While being pressure, Beathard’s intended pass for C.J. Fiedorowicz hit right guard Andrew Donnal right in the side of his helmet.
The pass ricocheted straight up in the air and fell into the hands of Wisconsin defensive end Pat Muldoon. The Badgers took over at the Hawkeye 25 and, three plays later, scored on James White’s 11-yard touchdown run.
“I did get hit, but I released it then I got hit,” Beathard said. “It was just a bad pass. It was my mistake.”
Donnal, who had a false start that stalled an Iowa drive deep in Wisconsin territory in the first half, talked about the unusual fourth quarter turnover.
“It’s an unusual play. I just immediately started looking for it on the ground hoping it was there, but obviously it wasn’t,” Donnal said. “It was a tough day for all of us, but we made it tough on ourselves. We made it difficult on ourselves. You just have to go out and execute and we did not execute. Little things made the difference.”
Beathard kept firing away with Iowa down 21-9 late in the contest, but narrowly missed completions to Damond Powell and Tevaun Smith that would have got Iowa on the move. The three-and-out gave Wisconsin the ball back quickly and White finished off a 135-yard rushing effort with runs of 59 yards, 10 yards and the final two on an 8-play, 76-yard touchdown drive with 1:35 left to seal the Badgers bowl-eligibility clinching win.
“They went from rushing for 50 yards in the first half to rushing for almost 300 by the end of the game,” senior linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “That is just not acceptable for us. They just out-fought us in the second half.”
Wisconsin overcame a rough start to the contest as Iowa didn’t allow one first down in the opening quarter. In fact, starting with an interception by Tanner Miller created by a blitzing Kirksey on the third play of the contest, Iowa kept the ball on the Badgers’ side of the 50 for the first four possessions for both teams.
“It was a moment where you just want to take a chance and take your shot,” Kirksey said of his blitz that led to the early Wisconsin turnover. “We wanted to eliminate the jet sweep. We didn’t want that play to beat us. We did a great job shutting down the run in the first half.”
Five time Iowa drove into Wisconsin territory in the first half. The end result were field goals by Meyer from 28 and 22 yards out as the Hawkeyes only led 6-0 when the Badgers first broke into Iowa territory.
That first drive across midfield turned the scoreboard around as Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave found Jacob Pedersen down the middle for a 44-yard touchdown pass. The extra point put the Badgers up 7-6 late in the first half with a lead they wouldn’t give back.
“We made some plays on that drive that were big for us,” Andersen said as the Badgers (6-2, 4-1) host a non-conference matchup with BYU next Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. “We got more yards on that series of play than the entire first half. That gave us momentum going into the second half.”
Besides Rudock, Iowa will also have to deal with injuries to other key players. Running back Mark Weisman, who was stopped on fourth down in the third quarter drive before Iowa lost Rudock, hurt his elbow while the offensive line lost right guard Jordan Walsh, forcing Donnal into immediate action.
All of that will be dealt with this week as Iowa (5-4, 2-3) will try next Saturday morning at Purdue at 11 a.m. to become bowl eligible with a victory.
“We have to learn how to avoid coming out in the second half as a totally different team,” Kirksey said. “We’ll be fine. We’ll continue to grow as a team, but when you know you have a great chance to close out a game and you don’t, you wish you could go back in time and chance a few plays around.”
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