Opponent Preview: Iowa
By Margaret Fleming
The Wildcats will host the Iowa Hawkeyes in the final game at Ryan Field during the 2021 season. The Nov. 6 matchup features the top two teams in last season’s Big Ten West.
After a heartbreaking 0-20 loss on Homecoming Weekend in 2019, the ‘Cats clinched a 21-20 victory over the Hawkeyes in Iowa City on Halloween in 2020.
Iowa went up 17-0 in the first quarter, but the ‘Cats fought back with a solid run game and strong defense. The Hawkeyes had 1:25 and a chance for a field goal to win it, but LB Blake Gallagher intercepted a pass by QB Spencer Petras to seal the win. The game was Northwestern’s 26th win over Iowa in program history.
This year, Northwestern isn’t bringing back the defensive powerhouses of Gallagher and LB Paddy Fisher who helped keep Iowa scoreless in the second half. Plus, the offense isn’t returning RB Isaiah Bowser, RB Jesse Brown or QB Peyton Ramsey, three key players in the win over the Hawkeyes.
With a number of new faces going against Iowa’s returning stars, here are three things the Wildcats need to do in order to win:
Three Keys to the Game
1. Take the pressure off the ‘Cats defense
While a scoreless second half and two interceptions from SAF Brandon Joseph made for a thrilling defensive win, the Wildcats shouldn’t rely on near-miracles to beat the Hawkeyes. Consistent offensive momentum will eliminate the need for a comeback and help the defense focus on shutting down Iowa instead of making up points.
2. Protect the ball
Last year’s matchup was full of interceptions from both teams. This year, the team that comes out on top will be the team that can control the ball. A great defense can intercept a good pass, but a great offense won’t rely on their defense to clean up their sloppiness. The team with more decisiveness, trust and team chemistry will come out on top.
3. Shut down the run game, a.k.a. Goodson
Iowa RB Tyler Goodson is a dog. The dynamic first-team All-Big Ten junior can change the course of the game in one defensive mishap. New Defensive Coordinator Jim O’Neil will need to use the stellar Wildcat defense to force Petras to throw the ball and see if Joseph can rack up some more interceptions. Or, more likely, slow down the Hawkeye offense by taking away their star RB and prevent another 17-0 first quarter.
This is going to be a tough game for the Wildcats, especially on the defensive end. If Northwestern can win on the defensive end, I think they will win the game. Energy will be high in the last Evanston matchup of the year, and I think the Wildcats will use that momentum to beat the Hawkeyes two years in a row.
Final Score: Wildcats 24, Hawkeyes 14