IOWA CITY When Wisconsin scored a late touchdown to caulk this one shut, an audible "Let's go, Badgers" broke out from Wisconsin fans in the south end zone. The Kinnick Stadium speakers answered with Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone."
The Hawkeyes (5-4, 2-3 Big Ten) were way past the danger zone at this point. Now, it's right into the highway . . . to . . . the Texas Bowl or some such, assuming Iowa can pull off at least one more win.
No. 23 Wisconsin (6-2, 4-1) snuffed Iowa's bid for bowl eligibility in the second half, when it outscored the Hawkeyes 21-3 and eventually pulled away 28-9 before 69,812 fans on Saturday. Running back James White rushed for 132 yards and two fourth-quarter TDs and the Wisconsin defense held the Hawkeyes to a season-low nine points.
Iowa's offense has now gone seven quarters without scoring a TD in regulation and has just three fourth-quarter points in five Big Ten games.
Quarterback Jake Rudock ended the game on an exercise bike trying to warm up a sprained left knee. Running back Mark Weisman suffered an undisclosed injury and wasn't able to finish the game. The offense pretty much ended the game in traction.
Rudock left the game after taking a lower-body shot while attempting a pass in the third quarter that was intercepted. One play later, Badgers quarterback Joel Stave hit wide receiver Jared Abbrederis for a 20-yard TD to stretch the lead to 14-9. Rudock didn't return and was replaced by freshman C.J. Beathard, who had his seventh pass ricochet off guard Andrew Donnal's helmet and into the arms of defensive end Pat Muldoon, giving UW a first down at Iowa's 25.
White scored from 11 yards just four plays later and the Hawkeyes were smothered at that point. You just know it's not your day when a pass hits your guard in the helmet and pop flies for an easy pick to a 269-pound defensive end.
"The turnovers were huge for us," Badgers coach Gary Andersen said.
A 7-6 first half lead bloomed into the Badgers victory, punctuating another moribund second half for the Iowa offense, which has been outscored in the fourth quarter this year, 71-28.
In reality, Iowa entered the danger zone in the first half when it had the wind (13 mph out of the northwest) and scored three points out of starting field positions at Wisconsin's 49 and 39, its 44 and Wisconsin's 41.
Iowa punted from Wisconsin's 35 at the end of the first quarter. In the second quarter, Iowa started from its 42 and drove to a first down at Wisconsin's 17. From there, two penalties forced Mike Meyer's 22-yard field goal.
Iowa had a 6-0 lead after dribbling away golden field position. This is when "Danger Zone" should've hit the loudspeakers.
"That's a knock down for us," offensive tackle Brandon Scherff said. "We have to come out of the red zone with seven points."
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was asked about the continued road to nowhere Iowa's offense has been on the second half, but the first half was where this one went off the cliff.
"We weren't exactly ringing them up there in the first half, either," Ferentz said. "Today it wasn't one of those deals as much [a second-half meltdown]. I'm kind of fixated on the two times we were down there in the first half. We weren't detailed enough to get it done."
You want to give Iowa's defense credit. It held the Badgers to 362 yards total offense, well below their season average of 513.6 yards. Iowa's defense, however, won't give Iowa's defense credit. The Badgers took the lead on Stave's 44-yard TD pass to tight end Jacob Pedersen, who beat freshman cornerback Desmond King in man coverage. Wisconsin's final TD was set up by White's 59-yard run.
Wisconsin played a mistake-free game. Iowa was stuck trying to play around its mistakes.
"If we make as many mistakes as we made today, it's difficult to win," linebacker James Morris said. "When you get toward the end of the year and it's a game between two good teams, it really does come down to mistakes. When they occur, who's going to step through the door? We had some breakdowns and they capitalized.
"They had some breakdowns on special teams and those were huge opportunities for us to make a play. For whatever reason, not hustling, the way the ball bounced, we weren't able to do it."
Right now, Iowa's offense is a flat tire. The Hawkeyes went into Saturday averaging 19.5 points a game in Big Ten play, eighth in the league. Running back Jordan Canzeri gave it a spark with a career-long 43-yard run that set up Meyer's third field goal, but the offense was a carcass once again against a Big Ten defense.
Iowa quarterbacks were rushed mercilessly. Rudock, who Ferentz said could've re-entered the game and should be back for Purdue (1-7, 0-4), was constantly under pressure. Wisconsin was credited with seven QB hurries, all by different players. Beathard stepped on to a flaming wreck and couldn't douse the flames.
"Jordan broke that long run and that somewhat got us going," said Beathard, who completed 4 of 16 for 70 yards. "After that, we couldn't find anything to give us a spark. We were looking for that."
Just keep hitting repeat on "Danger Zone." Iowa is knee-deep in it when it breaks the huddle.
- See more at: http://thegazette.com/2013/11/02/wisconsin-28-iowa-9-when-its-right-in-to-the-danger-zone/#sthash.zNcLiyhm.dpuf