Big Ten: Wildcats-Hawkeyes 110709

Derrell Johnson-Koulianos talks about how the Hawkeyes are coping with the loss.
Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Derrell Johnson-Koulianos had forgotten what it felt like to have someone other than Ricky Stanzi calling signals at the line of scrimmage.

 AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
 Ricky Stanzi's injured ankle may keep him out of the rest of Iowa's regular-season games.
Johnson-Koulianos also had forgotten what it felt like to lose.

Unfortunately for the Iowa wide receiver, he experienced both sentiments Saturday against Northwestern. And he won't forget either feeling any time soon.

The fourth-ranked Hawkeyes lost their quest for perfection Saturday, unable to summon enough magic without Stanzi as they fell 17-10 to Northwestern at Kinnick Stadium.

"That was always in the back of my mind, something I really wanted for everybody," Johnson-Koulianos said of going undefeated. "It's never been done here. We had the opportunity to do something prestigious.

"Now that dream, in a blink of an eye, is gone."

Iowa lost its undefeated season, its quarterback and possibly the inside track to the Rose Bowl on Saturday. The Hawkeyes saw their 13-game win streak, the second-longest in the nation, snapped before a stunned crowd of 70,585, thousands of whom remained in their seats long after the game ended.

The margin for error had always been slim at Iowa, both on the field and the depth chart. Until Saturday, the Hawkeyes had overcome every challenge, from losing running backs Jewel Hampton and Adam Robinson, to playing several games without left tackle Bryan Bulaga and tight end Tony Moeaki, to facing eight deficits in nine weeks.

But the loss of Stanzi to a right ankle sprain in the second quarter proved too big an obstacle.

"There's no doubt that we're a different team when Rick Stanzi's in there," Johnson-Koulianos said. "We had a gift in Ricky, and there's going to be a huge drop-off [behind him]. His ability to make plays in critical situations, we knew that. We hadn't experienced life without him so far. We didn't know what to expect, and it resulted in a loss."

Life without Stanzi likely will continue for Iowa, as head coach Kirk Ferentz said the quarterback likely will miss Iowa's final two regular-season games. Iowa will put its faith in redshirt freshman quarterback James Vandenberg, who saw his first meaningful action of the season Saturday.

Vandenberg's first pass attempt in a Big Ten game was intercepted by Northwestern's Quentin Davie, leading to the go-ahead touchdown. Vandenberg finished the game just 9-for-27 passing for 82 yards.

"Relief pitcher who hasn't been in the majors long enough," Ferentz said of Vandenberg's arrival. "That's his first time out there, basically. It's a tough circumstance."

Most top-5 teams boast enough lopsided wins to get the backup on the field, but Iowa's season-long edge-of-the-cliff dance kept Vandenberg on the bench for all but one game. Vandenberg felt prepared Saturday and knew he'd be going in as soon as Stanzi went down, but the game brought different challenges.

"It's definitely faster, and the stakes are a lot more painful," he said.

Iowa didn't condense the playbook for Vandenberg, and the offense nearly pulled off several big plays. But Northwestern's defense buckled down, particularly in the fourth quarter, when Iowa never crossed midfield.

"They were giving me great time and the receivers were working really hard, but I made some mistakes that I shouldn't make," Vandenberg said.

He'll have a week to correct those mistakes before facing a top-10 defense next week in Columbus, a place where Iowa hasn't won since 1991. The young quarterback will need help from a Hawkeyes defense that held Northwestern to 10 points Saturday. He'll also need help from a running game that produced only 65 yards Saturday.

Iowa's top goal is off the table, but a Big Ten title remains within reach, and linebacker Pat Angerer tried to keep things in perspective.

"It hurts, but we've got two games left," Angerer said. "Worse things could happen. We're not at war. We live in a good country, we're going to school for free, we're living the American dream. We lost a football game. It's pretty small when you think of the big picture."

And if there's any team that can respond from a setback like this one, it's Iowa.

"This is another challenge we have," safety Joe Conklin said. "We've been down in games and come back, but you know what? This is our first loss. We've got our first taste of defeat. And no one in that locker room likes it."
Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Northwestern waited patiently for Corey Wootton to get back to normal and start playing like an All-America candidate.

Weeks and months passed, and the senior defensive end still looked like a shell of his former self, as he recovered from offseason ACL surgery. After recording 10 sacks last season, Wootton had only one through the first nine games.

But this week, head coach Pat Fitzgerald sensed that Wootton's time would be coming. Fitzgerald's rationale was simple.

"This was the first week he practiced on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday," the coach said.

You can bet Wootton's teammates took notice.

"At practice, we were all yelling, 'Corey's back! Corey's back!" linebacker Quentin Davie said. "He definitely came back today."

Wootton made the biggest play of Northwestern's season -- and unfortunately a play that altered Iowa's season -- when he sacked Hawkeyes quarterback Ricky Stanzi in the end zone early in the second quarter. The senior jarred the ball loose from Stanzi and teammate Marshall Thomas recovered for a touchdown.

Northwestern went on to upset the fourth-ranked Hawkeyes 17-10 and notch its first win against a top 10 opponent since 2004.

Iowa led 10-0 at the time and had completely dominated until Wootton's play.

"It feels great to be able to contribute," Wootton said. "Last year, I had a little more production. ... I'm just starting to feel a little more comfortable out there. I'm still getting over the mental aspect [of the injury]. This is going to take time, but the more I practice and the more things I do to get ready for the games is going to help me."

Stanzi sprained his right ankle on the play, left the game and didn't return, as Northwestern held Iowa to no points and only 127 total yards the rest of the way.

"[Wootton] made a play down there," Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. "Cost us a touchdown and a quarterback, unfortunately."

Northwestern isn't going to feel too sorry for Iowa. The Wildcats have been decimated by injuries this season, especially on the defensive line as Wootton and defensive tackles Corbin Bryant and Adam Hahn all came off of surgery.

"The expectations we have for him are the ones he sets for himself, and they're very high," Fitzgerald said of Wootton. "I couldn't be more proud of him. He has stayed the course, he's battled, he's persevered. It's not been great for anybody on our team, but he found a way to get the job done today, and it's a credit to him."

Video: Iowa's Tyler Sash

November, 7, 2009

Tyler Sash discusses No. 4 Iowa's loss to Northwestern.

Final: Northwestern 17, Iowa 10

November, 7, 2009
Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The dream is over for the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Northwestern shocked No. 4 Iowa behind a dominant defensive effort and just enough offense. Iowa backup quarterback James Vandenberg couldn't rally his team, which had lost Ricky Stanzi to an ankle injury in the second quarter.

Corey Wootton's sack of Stanzi in the end zone changed the entire game. Iowa's 13-game win streak is over, while Northwestern has won its third straight at Kinnick Stadium and is now bowl

Iowa really needs some magic now

November, 7, 2009
Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- As Derrell Johnson-Koulianos raced open down the field, it looked like Iowa's fourth-quarter magic would resurface again.

But DJK couldn't get a good read on the ball and James Vandenberg's pass fell incomplete. Now Iowa really needs a boost as it trails 17-10 with 5:07 left.

Northwestern has the type of offense that can run out the clock, and Iowa has only one timeout remaining. The Wildcats can't afford a turnover and need to stay aggressive as they try to cement the upset.
Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- It's going to be survival of the fittest here at Kinnick Stadium as quarterbacks are going down left and right.

Iowa's Ricky Stanzi (ankle) won't be back, and Northwestern likely will play the rest of the game without backup quarterback Dan Persa, who has a hand injury. Persa has gotten most of the work today because starter Mike Kafka is still limited by a left hamstring injury.

Kafka showed a lot of guts on Northwestern's last drive, making several impressive throws. NU capped it off with a 47-yard field goal by Stefan Demos to take a 17-10 lead with 13:29 left.

Iowa needs to answer behind backup quarterback James Vandenberg, who has looked a bit better in the second half.
Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa has been the nation's best fourth-quarter team this season, and the Hawkeyes will need some more late magic to rally against Northwestern. The fourth-ranked Hawkeyes trail 14-10 entering the fourth.

Quarterback Ricky Stanzi is out, and while the defense has been stellar, Northwestern has mounted some sustained drives. Backup James Vandenberg and the running game need to get something going here in the final period.

Iowa has outscored opponents 73-14 in the fourth quarter in Big Ten play. Northwestern has been outscored 72-44 in the final period this season. So advantage, Iowa.

Iowa's Stanzi on crutches

November, 7, 2009
Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi is out of uniform and on crutches as he watches the game from the Hawkeyes' sideline.

The junior won't be coming back today, as the offense is in the hands of redshirt freshman James Vandenberg.

Iowa's Stanzi unlikely to return

November, 7, 2009
Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa likely will need to complete its comeback attempt without starting quarterback Ricky Stanzi.

Head coach Kirk Ferentz told the Iowa Radio Network that Stanzi has a bad right ankle sprain and likely won't return.

Backup James Vandenberg is starting to look a little more comfortable in the pocket. He'll be the guy the rest of the way.
Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Quick thoughts after a wild first half at Kinnick Stadium, where Northwestern leads No. 4 Iowa 14-10.

Turning point: With Iowa leading 10-0 in the second quarter, Northwestern defensive end Corey Wootton hit quarterback Ricky Stanzi in the end zone, jarring the ball loose. Northwestern's Marshall Thomas recovered the fumble for a touchdown and Stanzi left the game with a right ankle injury.

Stat of the half: Iowa committed four turnovers in the second quarter but allowed only 14 points. The Hawkeyes have committed 21 turnovers this season. In last year's game against Northwestern, Iowa had five turnovers but lost by only five points.

What Northwestern needs to do: Keep putting pressure on Iowa backup quarterback James Vandenberg if Stanzi doesn't return. Vandenberg is in a very tough situation, and he'll give the defense opportunities to make plays. Northwestern also must find some consistency on offense and make more big plays.

What Iowa needs to do: Ride the defense and special teams until Stanzi returns (hopefully). The offensive line has done a good job for the most part, so freshman running back Brandon Wegher should have some room to roam. But Vandenberg must show something in the passing game to prevent Northwestern from loading up against the run.

NU takes lead as Stanzi leaves game

November, 7, 2009
Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa will need to come from behind yet again to maintain its perfect season.

And this time, the Hawkeyes might need to do it without starting quarterback Ricky Stanzi, who left the game with a right ankle injury.

Corey Wootton's sack of Stanzi has completely changed this contest. Stanzi was down for several minutes and eventually hobbled to the locker room. His backup, redshirt freshman James Vandenberg, entered the game and his first pass of the season went right to linebacker Quentin Davie for an interception.

Northwestern backup quarterback Dan Persa converted on an impressive drive and found Drake Dunsmore in the end zone for the go-ahead score, as the Wildcats lead 14-10.

If Stanzi doesn't return, Iowa could really be in some trouble.

Wootton puts Northwestern back in it

November, 7, 2009
Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Defensive end Corey Wootton entered the season as an All-America candidate, but he has been nearly invisible because of the effects of offseason knee surgery.

Wootton just showed up in a big way.

After Northwestern's offense couldn't capitalize on a Ricky Stanzi interception, Wootton nailed Stanzi in the end zone, forcing a fumble that Marshall Thomas recovered. It cut Iowa's lead to 10-7. Stanzi looked very woozy as he walked off the field.

It marked Wootton's second sack of the season.

Northwestern's Kafka clearly limited

November, 7, 2009
Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Mike Kafka's hamstring injury will be an issue for Northwestern today, as we just saw.

On third-and-3 from the Iowa 31, Kafka had time to throw and an open area to run for the first time. But he hesitated, clearly not confident in the hamstring, and ended up taking a sack. It cost Northwestern a first down and a field goal opportunity.

Backup Dan Persa looked good on the option, so I'd expect to see more of him for the Wildcats. Iowa remains in control, up 10-0.

Iowa finally starts fast

November, 7, 2009
Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa might not need a dramatic comeback today.

The fourth-ranked Hawkeyes finally are off to a fast start and lead Northwestern 7-0 with 12:32 left in the first quarter. After going nowhere on two plays, quarterback Ricky Stanzi had tons of time on third-and-long and found a wide-open Marvin McNutt for a 74-yard touchdown. McNutt badly beat Northwestern safety Brian Peters on the play.

Iowa also looks fired up on defense, as tackle Christian Ballard dropped Mike Kafka for his second sack of the season. Northwestern, also a slow-start team, has held true to form as it's been all Hawkeyes so far.