4 plays that changed the game in Northwestern vs. Iowa

By Harrison Larner

A 17-point deficit in the first quarter proved not to be a trick after all as Northwestern defeated Iowa 21-20 on Halloween. Here’s a look at four plays that defined the game for the Wildcats:

First Quarter: Goal-line Stand

After fumbles on two straight possessions turned into Iowa touchdowns, a subsequent Northwestern 3-and-out nearly turned into a 21-0 Hawkeye lead. But a timely stop by the ‘Cats on fourth-and-2 resulted in a field goal instead. Avoiding the touchdown here becomes especially important in a 1-point victory.

After run plays on first and second down, the Hawkeyes appear to indicate another run. They come out in I-Formation and send wide receiver Nico Ragaini in motion to the left. Cornerback Cam Ruiz shadows him across the field indicating man-coverage — a great setup for play action.

The Wildcats force an incompletion on third-and-2 in the red zone. (Credit: ESPN)

Quarterback Spencer Petras fakes a hand-off but defensive lineman Adetomiwa Adebawore doesn’t fall for it and disrupts Petras’ pass to a wide open receiver in the end zone. 

Second Quarter: Kyric McGowan Touchdown

The very next drive, Northwestern plows down the field with 13 runs out of 15 plays to set up a pivotal 3rd and goal. The Wildcats send receiver Kyric McGowan in motion to the left and hand the ball off to him on a jet sweep. Running back Jesse Brown makes a key block to pave the way for McGowan’s TD and spooky celebration.

Kyric McGowan runs in the jet sweep for Northwestern’s first points of the game. (Credit: ESPN)

Second Quarter: Drake Anderson 21-yard Reception

With 2:25 left in the half, NU finds itself close to another score. Peyton Ramsey fakes the hand-off to Drake Anderson, who then runs a modified arrow route to the left sideline. Anderson catches the ball at the 23-yard line before an absurd juke move that sends two Iowa defenders flying out of bounds.

Drake Anderson makes two defenders miss on a critical play before halftime. (Credit: ESPN)

Not only did this play set up a first-and-goal, but also provided a much needed momentum swing for the ‘Cats.

Fourth Quarter: Blake Gallagher Interception

Much of the second half turned out to be a slog with only seven total points scored, but Iowa did have a final chance down one with a minute to play. Northwestern linebacker Blake Gallagher initially drops back into a zone, but a high throw by Petras bounces off the hands of tight end Sam LaPorta right toward Gallagher for the game-sealing interception.

Blake Gallagher seals the win for Northwestern by picking off Spencer Petras with just over a minute to play. (Credit: ESPN)

Now tied with Purdue atop the Big Ten West standings at 2-0, the Wildcats took another important step Saturday in erasing a disastrous 2019 and offered hope in an impressive comeback victory.