Iowa squandered first-quarter opportunities against Wisconsin and it bit the Hawkeyes real hard Saturday.
The Hawkeyes' first series started inside the 50 and ended in a punt. They drove to the Wisconsin 11 on their second series and a dropped pass from Kevonte Martin-Manley forced Iowa to kick a field goal.
Iowa punted on its next two drives from its 46 and Wisconsin's 34. The Hawkeyes drove to the Wisconsin 3 and were backed up by a false start before settling for another field goal.
That netted a 6-0 lead in a game where touchdowns were vital.
"We had pretty good field position," Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We had the wind behind us and ended up with three points. And I think the first half came down to us being in the red zone twice, not being able to come out with the touchdown, and had a couple of self-inflicted wounds on both possessions."
BY THE NUMBERS
2 – Rushing touchdowns allowed by Iowa entering Saturday
2 – Rushing touchdowns allowed by Iowa on Saturday
3 – Fourth-quarter points scored by Iowa in five Big Ten games
16 – Second-half points scored by Iowa in five Big Ten games
87 – Games in the Iowa-Wisconsin series; Badgers lead 43-42-2
D-plus -- Iowa’s offense might be playing “Duck, Duck, Goose.”
-- Marc Morehouse
D-minus -- Is it just me, or does Iowa not seem like a great second-half team?
-- Mike Hlas
D-plus -- Well, at least Iowa didn't blow another game while leading at halftime.
-- Scott Dochterman
Wisconsin LB Marcus Trotter. Trotter moved into the starting lineup, replacing all-Big Ten inside linebacker Chris Borland, and registered a team-high nine tackles, including 1.5 for loss. He also picked up one of Wisconsin's seven quarterback hurries.
"It's Marcus' moment. It's a credit to him for the way he prepared," Wisconsin Gary Andersen said. "He's obviously lived in the moment. He had himself prepared. That doesn't just happened in a week or happen in 10 days with a bye week. It takes time to get into that position and play the way he plays.
"It matters to him a lot, and its great to see him have success."
Borland, who last played against Iowa in 2009 at Camp Randall Stadium, warmed up Saturday morning but his hamstring was too tender to allow him to play.
BOTTLING UP GORDON
Iowa held Wisconsin super sophomore running back Melvin Gordon to a season-low 62 yards on 17 carries. Gordon averaged just 3.6 yards, well below his average of 9.46 yards per carry.
But that was of no consolation to Iowa linebacker James Morris.
"No, just simply because it wasn't enough to win," Iowa linebacker James Morris said. "I'm not really so worried with how many yards he gets as I am about if we win the game or not. We didn't win. We didn't play well in the second half.
"I think we could have done better in all respects, even defending Melvin Gordon."
Late in the first quarter, Iowa faced a fourth-and-3 from Wisconsin's 34 with a stiff wind at its back. With the clock winding down, Ferentz chose to rush the punt unit on the field rather than attempt a 52-yard field goal by Mike Meyer.
"The percentages weren't great there," Ferentz said. " So not really. And really our thought process, we were playing pretty good field position at that point, the way the game was going. If we could give them a long field, I thought that was our best deal. But you can go back and look at that one, and flip a coin, I guess."
Wisconsin took over at its 8 and ultimately ended up punting from its own 30.
Iowa kicker Mike Meyer kicked three field goals of 28, 22 and 29 yards, respectively.
PICKED OFF, PICKED APART
Iowa safety Tanner Miller produced the game's first big play with an interception in Wisconsin territory. On third and 3 at his own 32, Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave was hit by Iowa linebacker Christian Kirksey and the ball sailed high toward midfield. Miller snagged it and returned it to the Wisconsin 49, less than 90 seconds into the game.
"They were trying to go to (Jared) Abbrederis there on a wheel route, and I didn't really slide. I took off to his side," Miller said. "I didn't know if someone had gotten to the quarterback or he got hit or whatever. I turned around and looked to see if the ball was coming and it was up there floating. I had to kind of put on the breaks, and it just kind of fell into my lap."
Miller was near the play that cost the Hawkeyes its lead with 1:49 left in the second quarter. On third and 7 at the Iowa 44, Stave found tight end Jacob Pedersen wide open down the left seam to give the Badgers a 7-6 lead. Miller lined up in the middle of the field, but Pedersen beat freshman Desmond King on the play.
"We were in man-to-man on the back side with the corner, and I was cheating to the front side because my guy was on the three-man side," Miller said. "He was looking to that side for the most of the play, and I don't know what happened on the back side. (Pedersen) slipped behind our corner somehow and (Stave) just, at the last second, he turned looked backside and he just kind of threw it.
"It was a contested ball, and he just made a good catch and run."
The Badgers retain possession of the Heartland Trophy with the victory. Wisconsin won the brass bull back in the teams' last meeting in 2010.
Wisconsin also kept the Rusty Toolbox, the traveling trophy between the schools' team managers, with a 19-6 win late Friday night.
Iowa (5-4, 2-3 Big Ten) travels to its protected cross-divisional rival Purdue (1-7, 0-4) at 11 a.m. Saturday (BTN). The teams, which meet for the 84th time. It's Iowa's third most-played series behind Minnesota (107) and Wisconsin (87). Purdue beat Iowa last year in Iowa City 27-24. Next year both teams will compete in the Big Ten's West Division.