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Wisconsin’s defensive performance is not enough, as timely plays lead to a 24-10 Iowa victory

Iowa recaptures the Heartland Trophy, for the first time since 2020.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin Badgers (5-5, 3-4 conference) put on defensive clinic, but succumb to timely defensive and special teams plays by the Iowa Hawkeyes (6-4, 4-3 conference), losing 24-10, forfeiting the Heartland Trophy to Iowa. The two teams have alternated winning the trophy the last four seasons, with each team earning the trophy on their home turfs.

The Badger defense held the Hawkeyes to 146 offensive yards and sacked Iowa quarterback, Spencer Petras, a season-high, six times.

Leading the way defensively for the Badgers was Nick Herbig, who had three sacks, moving his season total to 11.

Jordan Turner, Maema Njongmeta and Kamo’i Latu all recorded one sack.

Turner and Njongmeta each recorded a team-high nine tackles, while Herbig recorded eight.

Iowa finished the game six-for-19 on third downs and Wisconsin didn’t fair much better, finishing six-of-17.

However, the Hawkeyes defense was just as suffocating against the Wisconsin offense, as the Badgers only managed 227 total yards, including just 51 yards on the ground.

Braelon Allen, who went over 1,000 yards on the season in the game, rushed for 40 yards on 17 carries, while Isaac Guerendo rushed seven times for 28 yards.

The Wisconsin special teams unit was able to get the Badgers on the board in the first quarter, as Nate Van Zelst connected on a 32-yard field goal.

The Hawkeyes special teams unit was not to be left out of the fun as they blocked an Andy Vujnovich punt, early in the second quarter.

Two plays later, the Hawkeyes capped off a 17-yard drive, with a Kaleb Johnson, 4-yard touchdown run.

Johnson finished the game with 22 carries for 57 yards and a score. Just last weekend, Johnson rushed 22 times for 200 yards and a score against Purdue, earning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week and Freshman of the week honors.

Iowa later got on the board for a second time near the end of the first half as Cooper Dejean returned a Graham Mertz pass, 32 yards for his second interception touchdown return of the season.

Dejean seemd to be everywhere for Iowa as he recorded 10 tackles, including one for loss and had 82 punt return yards. Pairing that was his 32-yard interception return, Dejean amassed 114 total yards, compared to Iowa’s 146 total offensive yards.

Wisconsin was able to answer with a 7-play, 75 yard drive that lasted just 1:06, as Mertz connected with Keontez Lewis on a 51-yard touchdown pass.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Mertz struggled often, finished 16-35 for 176 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. It was the first game that Mertz had thrown an interception in the last three games and the first time he had thrown multiple interceptions, since Wisconsin’s loss against Illinois, in early October.

For Lewis, he had a game-high 71 receiving yards on three receptions, which is also a new career-high.

With just a 4-point defecit, Wisconsin received the opening kick of the second half and Mertz threw his second interception of the game.

In the fourth quarter, Dejean, who had already scored on an interception, returned a Vujnovich punt, 41 yards well into Wisconsin territory, setting up a 5-play, 18-yard scoring drive for Iowas, as Petras capped of the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run on a qb sneak.

It was Petras’ second rushing touchdown of the season, while finishing 14 of 23 for 94 yards through the air.

While not eclipsing the century mark in passing yards, Petras did completes passes to six different receivers, including Sam LaPorta who finished with five receptions for 48 yards, including two third down conversions.

Iowa would later add a Drew Stevens, 44-yard field goal.

Following the field goal, Wisconsin had a chance to make a dent in the defeicit, but Mertz had the ball knocked away for Wisconsin’s third turnover of the game.

With the win, Iowa moves into a first place tie with Illinois (7-3, 4-3 conference) atop the Big Ten West, while Wisconsin falls to fifth place in the conference.

Wisconsin travels to Nebraska (3-7, 2-5 conference) next Saturday. The Badgers would become bowl eligible with against the Cornhuskers.