Iowa squeaks by Northern Illinois
September, 1, 2012
By Brian Bennett | ESPN.com
Running-back curse? It sure didn't look like it for Iowa, which barely avoided getting upset by Northern Illinois thanks to a play from tailback Damon Bullock.
Starting mostly because so many other players at the position have left, Bullock ran 30 times for 150 yards for the Hawkeyes. The one everyone will remember came with 2:15 left and Iowa facing 3rd and nine. Bullock went around the left side untouched for a 23-yard touchdown, the Hawkeyes' only trip to the end zone all day in an 18-17 nailbiter.
It was the perfect play call, because Northern Illinois had had so much success bringing pressure on third downs against James Vandenberg all day long. The Huskies brought the blitz again, and Iowa countered with the run call. Eat that, AIRHBG.
The winning drive was set up by a great special-teams play that saw Iowa down a punt on the Northern Illinois 1-yard line with 5:36 to go. But even the excellent ensuing field position didn't guarantee anything, as the Hawkeyes offense repeatedly bogged down in the red zone, settling for four Mike Meyer field goals.
The Hawkeyes' young defensive line played as well as could have been expected. That wasn't the problem as much as the passing game's inability to slow down Northern Illinois' defense. Vandenberg completed 21 of 33 passes but had only 129 yards, averaging a mere 3.9 yards per completion. He was sacked six times.
Some problems were to be expected as Iowa replaces a lot on both lines, breaks in two new coordinators and deals with turnover at the skill positions. The Huskies are a good team that played well enough to win.
But the Hawkeyes escaped in the end while finding a new starting running back. Nothing about that seems cursed.
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
Final Cincinnati 17 Virginia Tech 33 Final 15 Arizona State 36 Duke 31 Final Miami (FL) 21 South Carolina 24 Final/OT Boston College 30 Penn State 31 Final Nebraska 42 24 USC 45
Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16 Final Utah State 21 UTEP 6 Final 22 Utah 45 Colorado State 10 Final Western Michigan 24 Air Force 38 Final South Alabama 28 Bowling Green 33
Final Marshall 52 Northern Illinois 23 Final Navy 17 San Diego State 16
Final Central Michigan 48 Western Kentucky 49 Final Fresno State 6 Rice 30
Final Illinois 18 Louisiana Tech 35 Final Rutgers 40 North Carolina 21 Final North Carolina State 34 UCF 27
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State