Northwestern wins West with victory over Iowa
Northwestern receiver Bennett Skowronek makes the diving catch for a 32-yard touchdown ahead of Iowa defensive back Michael Ojemudia to give the Wildcats the lead with 9:27 left. Northwestern 14, Iowa 10
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Northwestern clinched bowl eligibility and a spot in its conference title game on the same day.
Only in the Big Ten West. Isaiah Bowser ran for 165 yards and a touchdown and Northwestern downed Iowa 14- 10 on Saturday to clinch a spot in the Big Ten championship game, Dec. 1 in Indianapolis against an East Division champion still to be determined.
Despite a 6- 4 overall record, Northwestern has beaten Purdue, Wisconsin and Iowa in reaching the top of the division with a 6- 1 mark.
"This team has overcome a ton of adversity," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "We got beat up. We had a bunch of injuries, lost some tough games there. The brotherhood in that locker room is the glue that kept everything together."
Bennett Skowronek's 32-yard touchdown, which came off an incredible catch in the fourth quarter, gave the Wildcats a 14- 10 lead they wouldn't surrender.
After a first half that yielded just three points on a 46- yard field goal by Iowa kicker Miguel Recinos, the scoring ramped up in the second.
Bowser hit a hole for a 34-yard touchdown at 9:19 of the third quarter to give the Wildcats their first lead of the game.
Iowa attempted to pin the Wildcats inside their own 5 on a punt and Josh Turner was there to down the ball, but it rolled into the end zone. After the Wildcats gained decent field position from the touchback, Iowa cornerback Matt Hankins was flagged for pass interference that set up Bowser's TD run.
Bowser gave Northwestern a boost after a first half in which it posted only 75 yards.
"I think ( the touchdown) got us going," Bowser said. "Obviously, not scoring in the first half, so coming out and scoring in the second half, that was big for our offense and big for our defense too, knowing that they had a lead."
After Recinos missed a field goal, Iowa safety Jake Gervase intercepted Clayton Thorson's pass off a tip. Iowa ( 6- 4, 3- 4) cashed in just two plays later with Nate Stanley's 28- yard touchdown pass to Ihmir Smith-Marsette.
The Hawkeyes had a chance to take the lead late in the fourth, but Northwestern's Cameron Ruiz forced Mekhi Sargent to fumble, and the Wildcats jumped on it.
Iowa had one final chance with under two minutes to go, but another fumble by Ivory Kelly-Martin ended the Hawkeyes' chances.
"They outplayed us," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "They've worked hard, they've invested and I thought they competed hard. But I guess it wasn't good enough."
Stanley threw for 269 yards and a touchdown for the Hawkeyes, losers of three straight.
The Wildcats are 6-1 in the conference for the first time since 1996, when they won nine games and played in the Citrus Bowl. “I didn’t want to talk about going to bowl games, but I just said, ‘You know what, forget all that, I’m talking about bowl games’ because they’re big. I’m going to call these guys out on it and say that’s what we’re playing for.”
Indiana coach Tom Allen, who took the big-picture approach to the season and had his players respond with a 34-32 victory over Maryland, leaving Hoosiers (5-5) one game shy of being bowl-eligible • With starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook out with a concussion, Wisconsin lacked balance on offense in a 22-10 defeat at Penn State. Star running back Jonathan Taylor ran 20 times for 185 yards and a touchdown, but backup quarterback Jack Coan completed just 9 of 20 passes for 60 yards with two interceptions, and he was sacked five times. Coan was just 2 of 4 for 10 yards in the first half as the Badgers lost for the third time in fi ve games.
• Karan Higdon, who ran for 42 yards in a 42-7 victory over Rutgers, became Michigan’s first 1,000- yard rusher in a season since quarterback Denard Robinson in 2012. • Illinois quarterback AJ Bush, who spent the first two years of his college career at Nebraska, rushed for an Illini QB-record 187 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries in a 54-35 loss to the Cornhuskers. Bush passed for 126 yards but was intercepted twice.