In a contest that was back and forth all day, a timely interception and great play from quarterback Jordan Lynch allowed the Northern Illinois Huskies to escape Iowa City with a 30-27 victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes.
With 1:30 remaining in the game and the score tied, the Hawkeyes took possession of the ball around mid-field. Sophomore quarterback Jake Rudock, who was making his first career college start, threw a pass behind his wide receiver in the flat, and it was intercepted by senior safety Jimmie Ward, who returned the ball to the 30-yard line. This set up an easy 36-yard field goal for Mathew Sims, and the Huskies prevailed in a close contest.
Lynch, who is a dark horse Heisman candidate, was once again the focal point of the Huskies’ offensive attack. He kept the Iowa defensive backs on their toes all afternoon with 25 completions on 41 attempts for 275 yards and three touchdowns. Lynch also led the rushing attack as he ran for 56 yards on 22 carries.
The senior signal caller did not turn the ball over in the game. Wide receiver Tommylee Lewis caught two of the touchdown passes from Lynch in a five-reception effort, for 82 yards. Receiver Da’Ron Brown had seven catches for 92 yards and caught the other touchdown pass from Lynch.
Aside from the costly turnover, Rudock was solid for the Hawkeyes in his first career start. He showed poise and a strong arm with his 20 completions on 36 attempts. He finished with 219 yards passing and two total touchdowns, one coming on a six-yard run.
Rudock threw two interceptions. One was a bit of a fluke as his arm was hit as he threw the ballm making the ball pop in to the air and allowing for an easy interception for Northern Illinois safety Dechane Durante. All in all, a solid, yet unfortunate first game for Rudock.
Northern Illinois struggled with the Iowa running game for most of the day. The Hawkeyes’ offensive line is big and experienced. They were pushing around smaller defenders all game long. The Hawkeyes used a solid 1-2 punch at the running back position with Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock.
Weisman is a powerful runner that usually requires multiple defenders to bring him down. He ran for 100 yards on 20 carries. Bullock is more of a “scat-back” type. He has good speed and elusiveness in the open field. Bullock ran for 76 yards on 17 carries.
This “thunder and lightning” combination of Weisman and Bullock is huge for the Hawkeyes, as they will be a key to taking pressure off of Rudock.
Individually, the Hawkeyes played well in most facets of the game, and it was still not enough for them to take down the Huskies. Lynch is a “do-it-all” quarterback that will surely put up huge numbers once again this season. He is a legitimate Heisman candidate as he will look to lead Northern Illinois to another BCS bowl berth.
While Iowa fans are surely disappointed, I think both teams showed a lot in this game and should be proud of their performances. Inexperience at the most important position in sports got the Hawkeyes this time, and the Huskies were there to capitalize.
Daniel is a writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.