Best in the West! Northwestern Claims Division Title
By Nicholas Guiang
Everything seemed to fall into place for the Northwestern Wildcats as they clinched
the Big Ten West title on Saturday afternoon with a 14-10 victory over the No. 21 Iowa Hawkeyes.
Coming into the weekend, Northwestern needed three things to happen in order to secure that elusive divisional title:
- A Wisconsin loss at Penn State
- A Purdue loss at Minnesota
- A Northwestern victory at Iowa in Kinnick Stadium
The luck started early in the morning before Northwestern even kicked off against Iowa, as Wisconsin fell to the favored Penn State 22-10. Additionally, Minnesota jumped out to a commanding 13-3 lead over a flustered Purdue by the time Northwestern and Iowa really got going, so it looked like it would just be up to the Wildcats to seal the deal.
However, the Wildcats found themselves down 3-0 after a frustrating and uneventful first half in which both Iowa and Northwestern struggled to move the ball.
Coming out of the break, Northwestern found its legs by leaning on true first year Isaiah Bowser, who is in the midst of a breakout year for the Wildcats. After receiving just two carries through the team’s first six games, Bowser has received at least 23 carries and gained at least 93 yards in every contest.
Saturday was no different for the talented back, as he finished with 165 rushing yards and one score while adding 33 receiving yards on three receptions. Bowser also made several key first-down runs that helped the ‘Cats eventually seal the victory over the Hawkeyes.
Outside of the strong performance from Bowser, though, Northwestern looked a bit shaky offensively. After a scoreless first half, the Wildcats passing game continued to struggle until late in the game. Senior quarterback Clayton Thorson’s third-quarter interception led to Iowa taking a 10-7 lead, but he recovered and found a diving Bennett Skowronek for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth. Several fumbles from Iowa running backs gave Northwestern the ability to run out the clock and claim the hard-fought victory.
Northwestern did what some thought was impossible. They went into Kinnick Stadium and beat a heavily-favored Iowa squad to claim their sixth conference win and their first-ever Big Ten West title. The Wildcats will face Minnesota and Illinois the next two weeks before traveling to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship game December 1.