Pat Fitzgerald had a hard time explaining another loss.
"There are a lot of things we are going to look at hard as coaches," Fitzgerald said to the media after the game. "Are we putting our guys in the right position to make plays? Are we giving them the best opportunity to be successful? Fundamentally, are we giving them all the tools to be successful? It will start and end right there."
The numbers are perplexing, as well.
The Wildcats posted 495 yards of offense while controlling the football throughout the game, but lost. The difference?
"Well you get (495) yards, but it's not about yards, it's about points and the offense," said Fitzgerald. "I think we stopped ourselves today with turnovers and obviously some self-inflicted wounds."
The ‘self-inflicted wounds started right out of the gates for Northwestern.
In the first quarter, Persa—while being wrapped up by a defender—through an errant pass into the hands of Iowa safety Tanner Miller, who ran for a 98-yard touchdown.
Early in the second quarter, Iowa WR Keenan Davis maneuvered by Northwestern CB Demetrius Dugar and found himself wide open over the middle, as quarterback James Vandenberg connected with him for a 33-yard strike. It was déjà vu on the very next play, as Davis was open again—burning by Dugar—and ran in for a 47-yard touchdown catch.
The Wildcats respond and even the score at 17. A Jeremy Ebert touchdown catch put Northwestern on the scoreboard, then Adonis Smith score from four yards out to start the third quarter. On their next drive, Jeff Budzien hit a 47-yard field goal. Suddenly, the score was tied.
Iowa's longest offensive drive of the game brought them to the endzone in 11 plays, covering 64 yards, and giving them the lead back. The Hawkeyes would extend the lead minutes later, as Vandenberg connected with Marvin McNutt on a 40-yard touchdown strike, which would put the nail in the coffin.
Northwestern would continue to fight in the fourth quarter. Kain Colter connected with Drake Dunsmore for an 18-yard touchdown pass, and then Trevor Siemian hit Rashad Lawrence for a 35-yard score. However, it was too little, too late.
"You look at the game and we put ourselves in a hole," said Fitzgerald. "When we put ourselves in the hole that we did, it's hard to come back from that."
The Wildcats' record falls to 2-4 overall, and 0-3 in Big Ten play. A bowl berth can still be reached with a 4-2 finish to the regular season, though that would be quite the challenge. Pat Fitzgerald remains optimistic that his team can rebound. Their next shot comes next Saturday against Penn State.
"We are going to find a way to create a plan for our guys, come back home for homecoming next week and find a way to get a win," said Fitzgerald. "In the heart of the story, you stay the course and find a way to get some things fixed."