IOWA CITY, Iowa - Iowa had gotten the 2015 season off to a 4-0 start. Another victory and the Hawkeyes were likely headed for a return to the Associated Press poll for the first time since late November, 2010.
But another victory brought a pesky challenge in the Big Ten opener. Wisconsin.
In the previous three meetings, all played in Iowa City, the Badgers had won every time. There was also this fact: the Badgers were ranked 19th in the AP poll. Iowa had lost nine straight games to rated opponents. The Hawkeyes’ last triumph over a rated opponent had come in 2011, a 45-24 decision over No. 13 Michigan.
Wisconsin had won 71 of its previous 78 games at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. On a positive note, two of those losses had come to Iowa - identical 20-10 scores in 2005 and 2009. What followed was 60 minutes of football that wasn’t always pleasing to the eye. But for the Hawkeyes, the 10-6 final was a thing of beauty.
“I think any win is a beautiful thing,” Iowa center Austin Blythe said.
Iowa did all of its scoring - a 1-yard touchdown pass from quarterback C.J. Beathard to tight end George Kittle and Marshall Koehn’s 33-yard field goal - in the second quarter to erase a 3-0 deficit. The Beathard to Kittle connection was set up by one of Desmond King’s two interceptions.
The Badgers closed to 10-6 in the third quarter, converting a Beathard interception in Iowa territory into a 46-year field goal by Rafael Gaglianone.
Iowa’s defense was stubborn all game, keeping the Badgers out of the red zone until their final two possessions of the game.
Wisconsin drove to the Iowa 1 with just under 8 minutes to play. On a second-and-goal play, Iowa’s Nate Meier used his leverage to knock back Wisconsin guard Micah Kapoi. He stepped on quarterback Joel Stave’s foot. Stave fumbled, and Iowa's Faith Ekakatie recovered at the Wisconsin 4.
Meier’s play never got the recognition it deserved.
“He was the one, with the penetration he had,” Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker told Hawkeyesports.com. “That’s why we had him in there. He’s quick, fast and explosive. He knocks the guy back, he steps on Stave’s foot and caused the fumble. No one really knows that.”
The Badgers got the ball one more time, and had a legitimate chance to pull the game out. But on a fourth-and-2 play from the Iowa 16, Stave’s pass sailed wide of tight end Troy Fumagaili, who was blanked by Iowa linebacker Cole Fisher in the right flat.
Just 36 seconds remained, and Beathard and the Hawkeyes went into victory formation. “It was like a heavyweight right out there,” Beathard said.
Iowa’s first road victory over a rated team since a 38-28 victory at Michigan in 2010 was complete. The Hawkeyes jumped to 22nd in the AP poll the following week.
Jordan Canzeri had a big game for the Hawkeyes, rushing for 125 yards in 26 carries against a defense that had held its previous three opponents to 93 total yards.
Iowa finished with 221 yards of total offense. Wisconsin was limited to 86 rushing yards in 34 carries, and went to the air 38 times to finish with 320 total yards.
“Going into the game, we knew they wanted to run the ball and we had to stop them,” Parker said “And to not give up a touchdown to Wisconsin in their home stadium was good. Desmond’s two interceptions helped us out a little when they did throw the ball.”
Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz was pleased with the victory, but said it wasn’t anything to get too excited about.
“If we’re there in November, great,” he said.
Iowa was 4-0 in November, and ranked in the Top 10 for its final six games. The Hawkeyes went 12-0 in the regular season to win the Big Ten West title, then came up short in a 16-13 loss to Michigan State in the title game.
All that was possible because of a slobberknocker of an October game in Madison.
“It was really important,” Ferentz said. “It was the opener. It was on the road. And I thought our team did a good job of preparing during the week and got on the bus with the right mindset. The intent was to go up there and win the game, and we fully realized and appreciated how difficult it would be because they’ve been playing good football for quite some time there, and it’s never an easy environment.”
Other Victories Over No. 19
No. 1 Iowa 21, No. 19 Kansas 7, Iowa City, Oct. 29, 1960
Iowa 55, No. 19 Texas 17, Freedom Bowl, Dec. 26, 1984
No. 20 Iowa 40, No. 19 Minnesota 22, Iowa City, Dec. 15, 2003
Iowa 20, No. 19 Wisconsin 10, Madison, Wis., Nov. 12, 2005