EVANSTON — Two weeks ago, Northwestern was undefeated and boasted the best defense in college football.
Two weeks later? Not so much.
A week after getting blown out at Michigan, 38-0, Northwestern allowed another big day to an opponent, as undefeated Iowa stayed that way after handing the Cats a 40-10 loss Saturday at Ryan Field.
An injury to star Iowa running back Jordan Canzeri was reason for momentary concern in the first half, but backup running back Akrum Wadley turned in a monster performance, rushing 26 times for 204 yards and four touchdowns, powering the rout.
The Northwestern offense, which has struggled all season behind freshman quarterback Clayton Thorson, continued to look stuck in the mud for much of Saturday. A bad Thorson pass was intercepted by Big Ten picks leader Desmond King on one of the Cats’ first offensive plays of the day. The Northwestern defense responded, forcing a field goal on that drive, but the Northwestern offense didn’t do much to repay the other side of the ball.
Canzeri was injured on the next Iowa drive, but Wadley took over from there, capping a touchdown drive with a 35-yard scoring run. Northwestern followed that up with six straight incompletions, two straight three and outs and two bad punts, which easily led Iowa to its next touchdown to go up 16-0.
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Surprisingly, the Northwestern offense awoke from there, turning in a terrific offensive drive of 76 yards in 12 plays. Thorson launched a 34-yard pass completion to Mike McHugh to set up first and goal, and he hit a wide-open Christian Jones in the end zone to slice the deficit to 16-7. Momentum continued to shift when Traveon Henry picked off Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard on the next play, setting the Cats up at the 21-yard line. But that resulted in only a field goal, making it a 16-10 game at the half after Iowa missed a last-second field-goal try.
Despite a late-first-half flash of brilliance, things went back to bad for the Cats in the third quarter. Iowa went on an easy-looking touchdown drive, an 84-yard plow down the field that ended with Wadley’s third scoring run of the game. Thorson and Justin Jackson botched a handoff on the very next play, with Iowa recovering the fumble. A few plays later, Wadley was in the end zone again.
A few plays into the fourth quarter, Thorson was crushed on a sack, dropping the ball. The Hawkeyes recovered that fumble, too, resulting in another Iowa field goal. Later in the quarter, a 71-yard drive keyed by a 41-yard Wadley run ended in a 13-yard Derrick Mitchell touchdown run to make it a 30-point game.
Northwestern dropped to 5-2 with the loss, its second straight, and the Cats have been outscored 78-10 in their last two games.
Iowa, meanwhile, improved to a perfect 7-0 and put itself in complete control of the Big Ten West race.