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Northwestern drops fourth in a row as offense continues to struggle

Iowa’s Louis Trinca-Pastackles Northwestern’s KaColter fourth down overtime seal Hawkeyes’ victory. | AP

Iowa’s Louis Trinca-Pasat tackles Northwestern’s Kain Colter on fourth down in overtime to seal the Hawkeyes’ victory. | AP

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Northwestern 0 0 7 3 0 — 10

Iowa 7 3 0 0 7 — 17

First Quarter

Iowa—Bullock 3 run (Meyer kick), 9:22.

Second Quarter

Iowa—FG Meyer 38, 9:56.

Third Quarter

NU—Vitale 10 pass from Colter (Budzien kick), 4:44.

Fourth Quarter

NU—FG Budzien 29, 9:09.

Overtime

Iowa—Fiedorowicz 8 pass from Rudock (Meyer kick).

A—66,838.

TEAM STATISTICS NU Iowa

First downs 19 19

Rushes-yards 52-225 41-136

Passing 104 169

Comp-Att-Int 11-14-0 19-27-1

Return Yards 7 10

Punts-Avg. 4-34.5 4-40.0

Fumbles-Lost 2-2 0-0

Penalties-Yards 5-55 2-10

Time of Possession 30:13 29:47

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING—Northwestern, Buckley 17-99, Colter 18-60, Trumpy 13-51, Vitale 2-17, Siemian 1-(minus 1), Team 1-(minus 1). Iowa, Weisman 13-56, Bullock 17-52, Rudock 7-22, Daniels 3-8, Team 1-(minus 2).

PASSING—Northwestern, Colter 11-14-0-104. Iowa, Rudock 19-27-1-169.

RECEIVING—Northwestern, Vitale 4-52, C.Jones 3-22, Lawrence 2-28, T.Jones 1-4, Trumpy 1-(minus 2). Iowa, Martin-Manley 5-45, T.Smith 3-41, Duzey 2-27, Fiedorowicz 2-26, Weisman 2-20, Powell 1-7, Hillyer 1-6, Plewa 1-2, Bullock 1-(minus 1), Van Sloten 1-(minus 4).

Updated: November 28, 2013 6:54AM



IOWA CITY — Northwestern’s 4-0 start and offensive prowess became distant memories, and coach Pat Fitzgerald was uncharacteristically emotional after the game.

That’s what happened after the Wildcats’ losing streak reached four with a 17-10 overtime loss to Iowa that put the team’s bowl hopes in jeopardy.

Not only was Northwestern (4-4, 0-4 Big Ten) inefficient on offense for the third consecutive week, the Wildcats were undisciplined. That could give way to wholesale changes on that side of the ball.

But Fitzgerald didn’t want to comment on anyone’s job but his own.

“I’m not ready to answer all those types of things,” Fitzgerald said. “We need to win football games. So, yeah, my job is on the line. I’ll answer that instead of the [offensive] guys. Mine is because every game is critically important.”

That might be the case in Fitzgerald’s mind, but he’s locked into a long-term contract and beloved by the university. He isn’t going anywhere.

That doesn’t render him blameless, though.

With some 40 seconds left on a running clock and the game tied at 10, Iowa faced fourth-and-11 on Northwestern’s 35-yard line. Fitzgerald elected not to call a timeout.

The Hawkeyes (5-3, 2-2) were heading into the wind, so they weren’t going to kick a field goal. And Fitzgerald didn’t want to give them extra time should they convert.

Instead, Iowa eventually took a timeout with 15 seconds left, then turned the ball over on downs. The Wildcats got the ball back with seven seconds left and took a knee.

Had Fitzgerald called a timeout, Northwestern would have had some 30 seconds left to drive into field-goal range.

“We’re playing to win the game. So, yeah [I thought about taking a timeout],” Fitzgerald said. “You know they’re going to have to go for it. So it’s a catch-22.”

More alarming, though, is how Fitzgerald was put in that position.

Throughout the Wildcats’ losing streak, Fitzgerald and his staff have assumed responsibility for the team’s struggles on offense. On Saturday, Fitzgerald pointed to mistakes on Northwestern’s final drive of regulation time.

With the Wildcats at the edge of kicker Jeff Budzien’s range on Iowa’s 30-yard line and the game tied, superback Dan Vitale was flagged for a low-block, a 15-yard penalty, away from the play.

On the next play, quarterback Kain Colter made an ill-advised pitch to running back Mike Trumpy, who lost his second fumble of the game.

“We suck right now,” Colter said. “We got to get better. Defense is playing really well. We moved the ball well today. We shot ourselves in the foot with penalties and turnovers.”

Email: sgruen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SethGruen



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