Every weekend in college football is like a changing of the guard. Last Saturday, as Oklahoma, the top-seeded team in the Bowl Championship Series poll and No. 3 in the Associated Press fell to No. 18 Missouri by nine points, No. 10 Wisconsin rallied and held on for a 31-30 victory over No. 13 Iowa in a Big 10 Conference battle at Kinnick Stadium.
It could have had a different ending if not for some trickery on the part of the visiting Badgers.
In what amounted to a last-ditch effort, Wisconsin pulled out the stops, when on fourth down and four from its 26, and trailing by six points, punter Brad Nortman lined up to kick.
Instead, he took off and gained 17 yards.
Most of the Iowa defense prepared for a return, but Nortman found clear sailing and easily picked up the first down.
This play, and another fourth down conversion with less than four minutes left set up Montee Ball’s eight-yard run with 1:06 left.
On the play, Ball had to stretch out in order to cross the goal line. The play was reviewed by the replay booth and upheld.
“Nortman did a great job of being patient,’’ said Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz. “It was a big, big play in the game. It changed things around pretty dramatically.”
Even so, the Hawkeyes had a chance to win, but running back Adam Robinson couldn’t get out of bounds after catching a short pass, and he had to because Iowa had no time outs left.
This was the second consecutive week Wisconsin (7-1 and 3-1 in conference) has knocked off a big-time foe. The previous week, the Badgers took out then undefeated and top-ranked Ohio State.
It boiled down to Wisconsin outscoring Iowa, 21-17, in the second half, and was exciting as the score indicates.
Wisconsin running back John Clay (team-high 91 yards on 24 rushes) capped off an 80-yard, 12-play drive with a two-yard burst and 6:30 left in the third quarter. Clay followed with a two-yard run that gave the Badgers a 24-20 lead late in the same quarter, and ended a 51-yard, four-play march.
Iowa (5-2 and 2-1 in conference) held a 13-10 advantage at the half, as Robinson (game-best 114 yards on 23 carries) scored on a one-yard run late in the first quarter, and quarterback Ricky Stanzi found Allen Reisner (five catches for 39 yards) with a three-yard pass and 16 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
Philip Welch’s 33-yard field goal with just under seven minutes left in the opening quarter gave Wisconsin a 3-0 lead, and quarterback Scott Tolzien (20 of 26 attempts for 205 yards and one interception) drilled Bradie Ewing with a seven-yard toss and 12:11 showing in the second quarter.
Iowa’s second half splurge consisted of a 45-yard scoring pass from Stanzi (25 of 37 for 258 yards) to wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (93 yards and five catches) with 3:08 left in the third quarter capping a 69-yard drive, a six-yard strike to wide receiver Marvin McNutt (70 yards and seven receptions) with just over 10 minutes left in the final quarter that gave the Hawkeyes a 27-24 lead, and Mike Meyer’s 40-yard field goal with 8:35 showing in the final quarter that made it 30-24, before what turned out to be the game-changing fake punt.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.