"We knew it was going to be tough coming on the road at Iowa. It's tough playing here at Kinnick, 70,000 fans cheering against you — being down by seven in the fourth quarter, that's not easy and that doesn't happen everywhere else," Lynch said.
Still, the Hawkeyes had a good shot at a close win — only to blow it yet again.
Iowa had the ball at their own 45 with 1:24 left when Ward jumped a route and collected the crucial interception.
The Hawkeyes probably needed about 30 yards or so to give standout kicker Mike Meyer a decent shot at the game winner. Instead, Ward gave Sims the chance to be the hero.
Despite the crucial interception, Ferentz was pleased with Rudock's debut performance.
I thought Jake did a lot of positive things out there, made good decisions," Ferentz said. "I thought his composure was good out there, his presence, so I'm really encouraged. I'm expecting nothing but improvement from him, just like I would like to see from our whole team.
The Hawkeyes lost four games by four points or less last season and finished 4-8, its worst record since 2000. That's one of the reasons why Iowa had been so anxiously eyeing its opener for nine months.
But the Hawkeyes picked up right where they left off.
Northern Illinois opened the scoring with a field goal. Tommylee Lewis then used a double move to beat a pair of Hawkeyes on a 40-yard TD pass from Lynch, making it 10-0 late in the first quarter.
It took a stellar solo effort to get the Hawkeyes back in the game.
Linebacker Christian Kirksey drilled Luke Eakes in the open field, forcing a fumble he took 52 yards for a touchdown that got Iowa back within 10-7.
C.J. Fiedorowicz's 11-yard TD grab — set up by a 53-yard flea flicker from Rudock to Jordan Cotton — made it 17-10, and the Hawkeyes led 24-17 at the break.