MADISON — The Wisconsin Badgers (5-3 overall, 3-2 Big Ten) spooked and defeated the No. 9 Iowa Hawkeyes (6-2 overall, 3-2 Big Ten) in a pivotal Big Ten West matchup, 27-7, on Saturday afternoon. The Badgers defense sent Iowa back to Iowa City with no tricks or treats on Halloween weekend.
Wisconsin got their second-straight victory over a ranked opponent by defeating the top-10 Hawkeyes. Prior to starting their current streak last weekend, Wisconsin was on an eight-game losing streak against ranked opponents going back to the 2019 season.
Return of the Bull pic.twitter.com/AtoBGUCffS— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) October 30, 2021
The Wisconsin defense turned the Iowa backfield into a haunted house, terrorizing Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras who, until Saturday, had not thrown for under 195 yard in the last five games. Wisconsin limited the junior’s impact on the game, holding him to only 93 passing yards — his lowest passing total of the season, while sacking him five times, including a strip sack. Wisconsin also sacked his back-up one time for six total sacks on the day.
“On defense, we pride ourselves in our physicality,” said NT Keeanu Benton. “I felt like staying physical with them, even though Iowa say they’re a physical team, staying physical with them and being more physical than them for the whole game set the tone.”
Benton went on to talk about the newest installment to the Wisconsin sideline, “the Grit Factory” hat.
“When you do something good, you get a chance to wear that hat,” said Benton.
The new prop, which took shape yesterday, was started by safety Collin Wilder. It has also started to change head coach Paul Chryst’s views on sideline props, which he has never been a fan of in the past.
“I am now,” Chryst said. “I have always been a fan of the players owning it and the Grit Factory, it’s probably fitting.”
Wisconsin also forced the Hawkeyes to go three-and-out on four of their first six drives, with the other two drives ending on turnovers.
Leading the way defensively for the Badgers was none other than Leo Chenal, who recorded nine tackles (four solo), three tackles for loss (one solo) and 0.5 sacks and Nick Herbig who recorded 2.5 sacks in the game and forced a fumble.
Jack Sanborn, who left the game momentarily with a finger injury, returned to the game and immediately recorded a tackle for loss. He finished the game with seven tackles (three solo) and two tackles for loss (one solo).
Iowa didn’t record their first first down of the game until there was just 1:15 left in the first half, but their offensive woes did not end there, as the Hawkeyes punted just four plays later.
The Hawkeyes finished the game with 156 total yards and were only 2-of-13 on third down and 0-for-2 on fourth down in the game.
Of Iowa’s 156 yards, 24 were gained on the ground, making this the fifth time this season that the Badgers have held an opponent under 30 rushing yards. They are now allowing 49.6 yards on the ground per game this season, which is by far the best in the nation.
Iowa also turned the ball over three times, while Wisconsin, who only forced four turnovers in the team’s first six games, has now taken the ball away eight times in their last two games.
Wisconsin was also able to turn Iowa’s three turnovers into 10 points. Wisconsin was unable to convert its first turnover into points as its drive stalled at the Iowa one-yard line, but Wisconsin was able to recover a fumble two plays into Iowa’s following drive.
Offensively, Wisconsin was paced by freshman running back Braelon Allen who recorded his fourth-consecutive 100-yard rushing game with 20 carries for 104 yards. Graham Mertz, who was hot early, finished the game 11-of-22 for 104 yards and a touchdown pass while rushing for two one-yard touchdowns (he now has four on the season) on an efficient three carries.
Mertz’s only touchdown pass of the day went to Jake Ferguson, who was wide open in the back of the end zone following a play-action that had Iowa crashing the line, hard. Mertz was a perfect 5-for-5, for 52 yards on the eight-play, 65-yard scoring drive that put Wisconsin up early.
Wideout Danny Davis who didn’t record a reception last week, hauled in five catches for 59 yards, which was a game-high.
With the win, Wisconsin puts itself in prime position in the Big Ten West, only trailing Minnesota (5-2 overall, 3-1 Big Ten) in the standings, who the Badgers play in the final game of the regular season. The Badgers travel east next weekend to play the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, their final crossover opponent of the year.