Wisconsin wins; West showdown with Nebraska is next
Iowa City, Iowa — Don’t count Wisconsin out of the Big Ten West race just yet.
Corey Clement ran for 134 yards and a touchdown and the 10th-ranked Badgers used a stout defense to beat Iowa 17-9 on Saturday, snapping a two-game skid.
Alex Hornibrook had 197 yards passing for the Badgers (5-2, 2-2 Big Ten), who won for the fourth straight time in Iowa City.
Back-to-back losses to Ohio State and Michigan put Wisconsin in a hole in its own division. But the Badgers survived a late Iowa surge — and next week they get division favorite Nebraska at home.
“They persevered. They kept playing, and they did it together,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said.
Backup Bart Houston threw a touchdown pass for Wisconsin, and Clement’s 1-yard TD run put the Badgers up 14-6 midway through the third quarter.
But Wisconsin was carried by its defense. The Badgers allowed just 236 yards on 60 plays and held the Hawkeyes (5-3, 3-2) without a touchdown for the first time all season — just a week after they scored 49 points against Purdue.
C.J. Beathard had 153 yards passing for Iowa, which lost its third straight at home.
“There were some plays that we left out there. That certainly didn’t help our cause,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Chryst wasn’t just giving lip service to Wisconsin’s perseverance. The Badgers overcame two missed field goals and a fumble that Iowa recovered in its own end zone, and their defense stopped Iowa 11 times on 13 third downs.
The Hawkeyes offense, which has been inconsistent at times this season, bottomed out. Beathard hardly had any open receivers — and when he did, he missed them more than once. Iowa’s hopes for a run at the West title now seem dim, with Penn State, Michigan and Nebraska still on its schedule.
Down 14-6 midway through the fourth quarter, Iowa finally found some life in the passing game. But the Hawkeyes drive stalled out at the Wisconsin 20, and Ferentz elected for a field goal to get within five. Freshman Keith Duncan pushed his kick wide right, though, and Clement broke a tackle in the backfield on 3rd-and-1 for a 34-yard gain with less than four minutes left.
“I thought we did a pretty good job of keeping him under control. Then he popped that one at the end,” Ferentz said of Clement, who had 35 carries.
Iowa appeared to pull to 17-12 with less than a minute left on a touchdown catch by freshman Noah Fant — which was set up by a brilliant kick return from Desmond King. But the officials said the ball hit the turf during “the process of the catch.” The Hawkeyes elected to kick a field goal down 11 with 43 seconds left, but their subsequent on-side kick went out of bounds.
Houston, the senior who had ceded the starting job to Hornibrook, was 4 of 6 passing for 59 yards and led the Badgers to their first touchdown. Houston’s package included some read option plays, giving the Badgers a different look. “For us to be the best team we can be, we’re going to need everyone,” Chryst said. “Bart gives us some stuff.”