The Badgers were able to pull out a 17-9 win on the road in Iowa City on Saturday, taking home the Heartland Trophy.
The first half was characterized by mistakes and missed opportunities for Wisconsin’s offense. On three redzone trips, Wisconsin was only able to put seven points on the board.
Those points came courtesy of Bart Houston when he found tight end Troy Fumagalli for a 17-yard touchdown pass. Houston came in on the third drive of the day for Wisconsin, but it was not to replace starter Alex Hornibrook, rather it was a designed package to get the senior back up quarterback some playing time.
On the first drive of the day, Wisconsin failed to put points on the board after Andrew Endicott missed a 32 yard field goal – this coming off of a game that saw Endicott go 3/3 on field goals against Ohio State.
Another missed opportunity came on a fumble on the goal line by Corey Clement. Wisconsin drove all the way down field, thanks in large part to a 54 yard pass from Hornibrook to back up tight end Kyle Penniston, and found themselves on the one yard line. Reaching out to get the score, Clement lost the ball and Iowa recovered.
Unlike the offense, the Wisconsin defense played exactly as they had all season: bend, but don’t break. With the offense stalling and giving Iowa good field position to start a few drives, Wisconsin’s defense held Iowa to just two field goals in the first half.
Starting linebacker Jack Cichy was once again an absolute beast for Wisconsin. Although Cichy would leave the game with what appeared to be a shoulder injury, he would end up leading Wisconsin with 10 tackles.
Garret Dooley was also a big time contributor to Wisconsin’s defense. The junior would come up with seven total tackles and had some huge tackles for loss adding up to 2.5. Dooley would also end up with half a sack that he and TJ Watt combined for.
Gaining some momentum back, Hornibrook found true freshman Quintez Cephus for a huge 57 yard gain that gave Wisconsin another golden, goal line opportunity. This time, Clement would make it count on a one yard rushing touchdown to put the Badgers up 14 to 6.
Hornibrook would end the game going 11 for 19 for 197 yards and Clement would end the game with 134 yards and a touchdown averaging 3.8 yards a carry.
Wisconsin would find itself with another golden opportunity after a great defensive stand by the defense, but the Badgers would regress to their first half ways.
Facing a fourth and three, Wisconsin elected to go for the 52 yard field goal, which Endicott missed wide right. But the Wisconsin defense would do as it always does and keep the Badgers in the game and keep getting the offensive opportunities. In the second half, Wisconsin’s defense forced Iowa to punt on 4 of 6 drives and also forced a total of five three and outs over the course of the game.
Wanting a change of pace, Chryst again switched quarterbacks going with Houston. The senior quarterback wouldn’t provide points but would help Wisconsin flip the field and would not give up good field position to Iowa’s offense.
The defense for Wisconsin would come up big once again. Iowa would drive 60 yards only to be stopped short by the Badger defense and would have to settle for a field goal attempt. This time though, Iowa kicker Keith Duncan would miss from 38 yards.
With five minutes left in the game, Hornibrook and Wisconsin’s offense would come on to ice the game. Helped by a 34 yard run by Clement, that is exactly what the Badgers would do. After running the ball to drain Iowa of their timeouts, Endicott would come on and drill the 36 yard field goal, putting the score at 17-6.
But with over one minute left, Iowa’s Desmond King would return the kick 70 yards setting up the Iowa’s offense for a field goal that made it a one score game.
On the ensuing onside kick though, the ball went sailing out of bounds and with it, any chance that Iowa had at winning the game.
Wisconsin will look to build on the win next week playing a top-10 Nebraska team under the lights at Camp Randall Stadium.