IOWA CITY, Iowa Jake Rudock couldn't remember if he ended up on his back. He didn't remember anything in the aftershock.
Rudock remembered the important things about his 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz. He remembered that Northwestern threw on a blitz. He remembered the defense was in a cover zero, with no deep safety. He remembered that he had to get the ball out super fast.
"I don't think I was on the ground," the Iowa quarterback said. "I swear I don't have a concussion, I promise. I'm really good."
That TD pass was it for Iowa's offense in the second half and overtime. Unlike the previous two Big Ten games, the Hawkeyes (5-3, 2-2 Big Ten) lived through a second-half funk, holding off Northwestern 17-10 in overtime before 66,838 fans Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
In danger of watching their third straight halftime lead go up in flames, defensive tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat flushed Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter out of the pocket, missed the elusive 200-pounder and then double-backed through some traffic and bear hugged him to the turf to stop Northwestern (4-4, 0-4) on fourth down and end it.
He stood over Colter and raised his arms to the sky. The Hawkeyes rushed the field. They savored this one.
The Hawkeyes, who snapped a four-game Big Ten losing streak at Kinnick, rushed the field, ran up to the locker room and sang the school fight song loudly, brutally and very, very quickly, as is tradition under coach Kirk Ferentz.
"We should've closed it a little earlier, but we got the win," running back Damon Bullock said. "The better the win, the faster we sing it."
That second-half funk seems to have settled in. Iowa scored on its first drive, a mechanistic 14-play, 74-yarder that lasted 5:38, and then took a 10-0 lead on Mike Meyer's 38-yard field goal with 9:56 left in the second quarter. And then just like last week at Ohio State, Iowa's running game was packed up and basically put in a jar by a game Northwestern defense.
In their last three games, the Hawkeyes have rushed 25 times for 57 yards in the second half. In their three losses, Iowa has been outscored 53-10 in the second half. Saturday's 305 yards total offense was the second-lowest this season (264 vs. Michigan State is the low).
"The critique-o-meter is out there, and that comes with the territory, but it just shows you what a fine line it is between winning and losing, too, and I think that's the bottom line," Ferentz said. "If there is any bad that comes out of winning, you just have to stay grounded and stay focused on what's going to help you win."
You could argue that kind of pulled Iowa through. Iowa stayed within the fine lines, while Northwestern scribbled.
Behind Colter's 164 yards total offense, the Wildcats volleyed, tying the game 10-10 on Jeff Budzien's 29-yard field goal with 9:09 remaining in the fourth quarter. With about 3 1/2 minutes left, Northwestern had first down at Iowa's 30 and Colter rushed to Iowa's 17, but Dan Vitale was called for an illegal block in the back. The Wildcats fumbled a pitch on the next play and Iowa recovered.
"The two plays at the end of the game were inexcusable, the penalty and fumbling the football," NU coach Pat Fitzgerald said.
Iowa's ensuing drive stalled at NU's 35. With a 17 mph wind out of the northwest, a field goal wasn't in the conversation, Meyer said. On fourth down, Rudock was intercepted by linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo. With seven seconds left, Kolter took a knee and it was overtime.
Someone on the Iowa sidelines discovered the offense was unplugged and plugged it back in. On first down, Rudock zipped a quick pass to wide receiver Tevaun Smith for a 14-yard gain to NU's 11. Iowa had third-and-2 at the 3 when guard Conor Boffeli was called for a false start.
The collective groan from the Kinnick crowd will be a hurricane somewhere across the globe. This was Northwestern after all. The lightning has struck Iowa in the head and the heart before against the Cats. And this also was the 2013 Hawkeyes, first-half wonders and second-half non-finishers.
"You can't let it get frustrating, that's on all of us," said Rudock, who said he felt no ill effects from a blow to the head he suffered in the first half. "You have your teammate right next to you and you have to keep working. You have to stay even keeled, can't get too high, can't get too low."
So, then on third-and-7 from the 8, Rudock took a presnap look and saw NU safety Ibraheim Campbell and Ariguzo lurking in the middle of the field. He figured they were coming.
At first, it looked as though Rudock, who finished 19 of 27 for 169 yards, a TD and an interception, threw the ball away. Campbell was right there.
"That was great poise by Jake," said Fiedorowicz, who called the TD the biggest of his career. "That guy was right in his face."
Rudock knew he had to throw the ball high enough to give Fiedorowicz a chance to run under it. Campbell was so close he smelled Rudock's deodorant.
"It all felt like it was in slow motion," Fiedorowicz said. "That ball was in the air forever."
That's the fine line between the critique-o-meter getting Sunday off or spinning at light speed.
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