Wisconsin Versus Iowa: The Heartland Trophy Has Returned to Iowa

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Photo Cred: ESPN

Wisconsin has won its last two home games, beating Purdue and Maryland. The Badgers played Iowa on the road last Saturday, hoping to come away with their third consecutive win. However, there was no such luck, as Wisconsin lost to Iowa 10-24.

Both teams hoped to continue their momentum from previous wins. The Badgers had beaten Maryland 23-10, while Iowa knocked off Purdue 24-3. Wisconsin can attribute most of their success last week to RB Isaac Guerendo, who rushed for one touchdown and 114 yards on 12 carries. It was great to see a new RB taking on the offensive leadership role that the Badgers are always looking for. Especially more so due to the lack of leadership from QB Graham Mertz.

Photo Cred: Black Heart Gold Pants

Wisconsin’s defense has been a presence throughout their past two wins as well. Their offensive line sacked Maryland’s QB Taulia Tagovailoa five times for a total loss of 31 yards. Leading the defensive team, LB Nick Herbig has had a total of eight sacks this season.

Looking at the past history between Wisconsin and Iowa, the Badgers had won eight of the last 10 games against the Hawkeyes. Wisconsin even won last year 27-7. Despite the two-week success this year and their win against the same opponents last year, Wisconsin could not pull it together…

Photo Cred: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel                  Photo Cred: Badgers Wire – USA Today

This matchup between the Hawkeyes and the Badgers was a make-or-break for both teams. The loser of the game (Wisconsin) cemented an underachieving season. Both teams, who have combined to win six of the eight Big 10 West titles, entered the game at 5-4 overall. They were projected to finish first and second in the division this season.

The loser of this game could do no better than 7-5. The winner (Iowa), however, could still have a 10-win season and enter a January bowl game. If everything came together, it could even be the Rose bowl! This loss was devastating for the Badgers because they now have a very low chance of getting to play in a significant bowl game. They’ll have to make sure they don’t miss out on one altogether!

Photo Cred: Badger of Honor                                       Photo Cred: Black Heart Gold Pants

“Things get close when we play great teams and special teams need to be a factor in the game,” Wisconsin interim head coach Jim Leonhard said. “Unfortunately, today it was a factor in the wrong direction for us.”

Wisconsin had 227 yards on offense and scored first on a 32-yard field goal from K Nate Van Zelst. Mertz threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to WR Keontez Lewis with 52 seconds left in the first half to cut Iowa’s lead to 14-10.

Photo Cred: Badgers Wire – USA Today

Iowa QB Spencer Petras only threw for 94 yards and was sacked six times. Mertz threw for 176 yards and was sacked four times. While his stats are notably better than Petras’, Mertz lost a fumble and threw two interceptions. “There was definitely some miscommunication we have to clean up,” Leonhard said.

The Hawkeyes’ last loss in the month of November was a 24-22 defeat at Wisconsin in 2019. “Really good teams should be peaking in November,” Petras said.

Photo Cred: Hawkeyes Wire – USA Today                Photo Cred: Hawkeyes Wire

If that’s the truth, Wisconsin has some work to do before they play their next two November games against Nebraska and Minnesota.

The Hawkeyes are ranked in the top 10 nationally in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense, and passing defense. Despite their rankings, Wisconsin was able to get some decent yardage against the Hawkeyes.

Even though the Badgers were able to move down the field with the ball, Mertz’s turnovers were costly for the Badgers. This is a constantly reoccurring theme for the Badgers.

Photo Cred: Hawkeyes Wire                                          Photo Cred: Madison.com

Many Wisconsin fans are ready to see Mertz go and welcome in a new potential quarterback. At the beginning of November, Wisconsin offered three-star QB recruit Cole LaCrue a scholarship. Wisconsin offensive coordinator Bobby Engram has been confident that the Badgers will get a quality quarterback in the 2023 class back in fall camp. Boy, do the Badgers fans hope that is the truth after Mertz’s performance this season!

Photo Cred: Wisconsin Badgers                              Photo Cred: 247 Sports

LaCrue is the Badgers’ top target. He stands at 6-foot-2 and is an intriguing prospect due to his ability to extend plays with his legs. Mertz has not done what he needed to do this season. This is a team that needed a leader to stand up thanks to the constant change the team has endured. After Saturday’s performance, it won’t come as a surprise to anyone that Wisconsin is heavily recruiting quarterbacks for next season.

Photo Cred: Sports Illustrated                                Photo Cred: 9News

Thanks to the triumph against Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes are now part of the four-way tie for the division lead with Illinois, Purdue, and Minnesota. They also became bowl-eligible by virtue of getting their sixth win of the season.

Wisconsin is now 5-5 and will play Nebraska away on November 19.

Photo Cred: Corn Nation

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