Coming off big win, Northwestern visits Iowa
The Big Ten’s two longest-tenured coaches, Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, will face off for the 15th time Saturday in Iowa City.
The 15 matchups between the two men is the most for a pair of head coaches this century.
While historically Iowa (0-1, 0-1 Big Ten) has the edge in the matchup, Northwestern (1-0, 1-0) has seen recent success in what has slowly become a rivalry game between the two West Division foes. Fitzgerald is 8-6 in games against the Hawkeyes while Ferentz is 9-10 versus the Wildcats.
“Any time you play Northwestern, you know it is going to be a tough, competitive football game,” Ferentz said.
Northwestern is coming off a terrific season debut, a 43-3 rout of visiting Maryland.
The Wildcats’ new offense, led by Indiana graduate transfer Peyton Ramsey, scored five touchdowns and racked up 537 yards off offense in offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian’s first game in the role.
“We needed to get off to a fast start with the offense to gain confidence,” Fitzgerald said. “Everybody from our players, our staff, our support staff handled it really well on the offensive side of the ball.”
Ramsey was 23 of 30 for 212 yards in the game while the team averaged more than 6 yards per rush.
The Northwestern defense held the Terrapins to 207 total yards in part by forcing transfer quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa into three interceptions.
“We only had three interceptions as a secondary last year, and now to have that in one game is great,” Wildcats junior defensive back Cam Ruiz said.
Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes led in the fourth quarter against Purdue on Saturday before giving up 10 unanswered points to lose 24-14.
Iowa did almost all of its damage in the second quarter. On three of its four possessions in the period, the Hawkeyes scored points with 1-yard touchdown runs from Spencer Petras and Mekhi Sargent plus a 27-yard field goal by Keith Duncan.
On Iowa’s nine other possessions, the team managed only another field goal from Duncan. Despite outgaining Purdue by 74 yards, the Hawkeyes punted six times, lost two fumbles and ended with a turnover on downs.
Petras, a redshirt sophomore quarterback starting making his first start, was solid for Iowa. He finished with 265 yards on 22-of-39 passing.
“I think Spencer, for the first time out, we had a lot of first-time players, but for the quarterback position … I thought he did a lot of good things,” Ferentz said. “Lot of things he’ll get better, but really impressed with his poise and his control.”
In 2018, when Northwestern last traveled to Iowa City, the Wildcats upset the Hawkeyes 14-10 behind a diving 32-yard touchdown grab from Bennett Skowronek in the fourth quarter. With the victory, Northwestern clinched its first Big Ten West title.
The win was the third in a row for the Wildcats against the Hawkeyes. However, the streak was broken last October in Evanston, Ill., when Iowa shut out Northwestern 20-0.
–Field Level Media