CHICAGO (AP) — Drew Stevens knew as soon as the ball took flight. He got all of that one and in a flash, the celebration was on.
Stevens nailed a tiebreaking 53-yard field goal in the closing seconds, and Iowa beat Northwestern 10-7 at Wrigley Field on Saturday.
“As soon as I kicked it, I started celebrating,” he said. “I was like, it went in. And then it's like a three-second delay and then the crowd starts cheering.”
The Hawkeyes (7-2, 4-2) took sole possession of the Big Ten West lead with Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin all losing. They also put aside a somewhat tumultuous week after interim athletic director Beth Goetz announced that offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz will not return next season.
“The month of November really defines you,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “You find out what’s what and who’s who. That’s usually how you get remembered. ... Happy to be at seven. We’d rather be at nine, but we’re not. We’re not looking back.”
The game went as expected, with those predicting a baseball score at the iconic ballpark getting it just about right.
Northwestern (4-5, 2-4) drove for a tying touchdown with just under two minutes remaining. But Iowa — last in the nation in total offense coming into the game — responded.
Aided by a 23-yard pass from Deacon Hill to Kaleb Brown, the Hawkeyes drove from the 28 to the Northwestern 35. Stevens, who missed a 53-yarder off the right upright in the first quarter, nailed one from about the same spot on fourth-and-7 to make it 10-7 with 14 seconds remaining.
He was quickly mobbed by his teammates as a large contingent of fans wearing black and gold roared.
“The wind was slightly pushing it left to right and Mother Nature kind of got me in the first half,” Stevenson said. “Made it when it mattered.”
Stevenson would have had a tough time shaking off the miss in the past. But not this time.
“If you would have asked me that a few years ago, I probably would have been like, ‘It’s impossible,'” he said. “It's like one or two minutes, like, ‘dang, that sucks.’ But your team needs you in close games like that. It wasn't that difficult to shake off.”
Iowa (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten) grabbed a 7-0 lead after Anterio Thompson blocked Hunter Renner’s punt early in the third quarter. The Hawkeyes took over at the Northwestern 25. Drew Hill rolled to his right and hit Addison Ostrenga for a 2-yard touchdown.
Iowa's defense made a huge stand midway through the fourth quarter. Northwestern had a first down at the Hawkeyes' 2 and got stopped on four runs — three from the 1.
The Wildcats however had another huge opportunity after the Hawkeyes went three-and-out.
A.J. Henning returned a punt 23 yards to the 21, and Brendan Sullivan hit Cam Johnson with a 5-yard touchdown, tying it with just under two minutes remaining.
Hill threw for just 65 yards, completing 10 of 15 passes with a touchdown and an interception. Leshon Williams ran for 79 yards, giving him 1,032 in his career, and the Hawkeyes bounced back from a loss to Minnesota two weeks earlier.
The game was Northwestern’s third at Wrigley in 14 years. And the Friendly Confines haven’t been so welcoming, with the Wildcats losing all three.
Sullivan was 12 of 19 with 81 yards and a touchdown for Northwestern. Theran Johnson intercepted a pass in the end zone in the second quarter, but the Wildcats lost for the second time in three games.
Though he appreciated playing in a historic stadium, Ferentz wasn't thrilled with some of the logistics, such as sharing a sideline and a tight squeeze in some spots with the brick wall. There was protective padding covering the ivy just beyond the end zone in right field.
“It's cool to be in Wrigley Field, I'm not minimizing that,” he said. “I appreciate history. But I'm hoping as we move forward that the league comes up with a policy where both teams have to co-sign. Seems like that would be a fair thing to do.”
Iowa: Credit the defense for holding Northwestern to 170 yards while the offense came away with just 169. Clearly, the announcement about Brian Ferentz didn't provide an immediate spark.
Northwestern: Though they came up short, the surprising Wildcats once again made things difficult for their opponent.
Iowa: Hosts Rutgers on Nov. 11.
Northwestern: Visits Wisconsin on Nov. 11. ___
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