On senior day in Madison, a redshirt freshman provided a spark, but Wisconsin came up just a few yards short at the end.
Trailing 27-21, Wisconsin quarterback John Stocco engineered a 44-yard drive in the final three minutes, 38 seconds, but needed four more to pull out a victory. Following a one-yard run by Stocco to the Iowa six, Wisconsin took its final timeout with 21 seconds remaining. The Badgers set up two plays, the first resulting in a swing pass to tailback Dwayne Smith, who was wrapped up in bounds by Hawkeye corner Jovon Johnson at the five. With the clock running, the Badgers moved frantically to set up a final play, snapping the ball with just two seconds showing on the clock. Stocco fired a pass into traffic over the middle intended for receiver Jonathan Orr, but the pass fell incomplete, with Iowa safety Sean Considine in close coverage.
"We had to run two quick plays, we just ran out of time," Stocco said. "I didn't win, I didn't step up when I needed to. There is not much else to say."
Wisconsin was left scrambling on the final play after using its second timeout early in the fourth quarter as Iowa set up a field goal attempt. The Badgers were caught changing personnel, midway between using their field goal unit and their base defense. For a while as the Hawkeyes set up, Wisconsin had 10 on the field, but as Anttaj Hawthorne ran on to make 11, someone among the Badgers' coaching staff thought they saw 12.
"I think there was miscommunication on the sideline," Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said. "We were trying to get our field team in for a field goal and someone from upstairs said...they thought we had 12 on the field; defensive coaches did not want to take a chance there to give them a first down."
Wisconsin's offense sputtered after quarterback Jim Sorgi left the game with a concussion early in the second quarter. Backup Matt Schabert played nearly half the game, throwing three interceptions with just 49 yards passing.
Stocco entered on the Badgers' first possession of the fourth quarter and began his second drive with a 49-yard completion to Lee Evans at the Iowa 30. The Hawkeyes defense stiffened, though, forcing a punt with five and a half minutes left.
The loss likely cost Wisconsin an opportunity for a New Year's Day Bowl berth. The Badgers (4-4 Big Ten, 7-5 overall) most likely destinations are now the Sun, Alamo or Music City Bowls. Iowa (5-3, 9-4) now runs the strong possibility of heading to Florida on New Year's Day, likely to the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla.
Iowa needed just three plays and less than a minute to score on its second drive of the game. Fred Russell started the drive with a 47-yard run, benefiting from left tackle Robert Gallery's kickout block on Badger safety Ryan Aiello. Russell did the work from there, beating corner Chuckie Cowans to the edge and racing down the sideline before Scott Starks forced him out of bounds.
Two plays later receiver Ramon Ochoa took a reverse from Russell around left end, picking up a lead block from quarterback Chandler. Hawkeye receiver Maurice Brown blocked Cowans to the shadow his goal line, helping Ochoa reach the end zone to give Iowa an early 7-0 lead. Wisconsin's defense, though, pulled together after that drive, allowing just 200 yards the rest of the game.
The Badgers received a spark from their defense midway through the first quarter and used some uncharacteristic trickery to close the gap and pull ahead with three touchdown drives in four possessions.
On Iowa's next possession, Wisconsin corner Scott Starks intercepted a Chandler pass and returned it 26 yards to the Iowa five. Two Anthony Davis runs later the game was tied, 7-7.
Davis scored again on Wisconsin's next possession, but not before an uncanny play. With a second and eleven from the Iowa 22, Davis went in motion to the left, setting up an empty backfield. Badger quarterback Jim Sorgi then threw backward to Lee Evans, for what initially appeared to be a receiver screen, with Davis among the lead blockers. Evans, though, threw back across the field to Sorgi, who caught the ball at the 26 and sprinted to the Hawkeye four.
On Wisconsin's next play, Iowa defensive end Howard Hodges had Davis corralled in the backfield and tried to swing the Badger tailback to the ground, but Davis stayed on his feet and outran Hawkeye strong safety Bob Sanders to the corner for his second touchdown run of the game.
Badger quarterback Jim Sorgi suffered a head injury during the Badgers next possession, early in the second quarter and did not return. Matt Schabert replaced him on the following drive, again after a Chandler turnover, his third of the first half, when senior linebacker Kyle McCorison intercepted a pass over the middle.
Despite great field position at the Hawkeye 36, Wisconsin's offense sputtered to begin the drive, but on fourth-and-seven Anthony Davis took a screen pass near the left sideline and sprinted 30 yards, setting up Dwayne Smith's one-yard touchdown run to give the Badgers a seemingly commanding 21-7 lead.
Wisconsin's offense, though, disappeared until the fourth quarter and contributed just 21 yards on its final four possessions before halftime.
Iowa took advantage, first getting a 39-yard interception return from Jovon Johnson to the Badger 26. Iowa then converted its first two third downs of the game, the first a 12-yard pass from Chandler to receiver Matt Melloy that set up first and goal at the 10. On third and goal, Chandler hooked up with Ochoa on a six-yard crossing pattern over the middle, bringing Iowa within 21-14.
After an Iowa punt late in the first half gave Wisconsin possession at its 12, the Badgers attempted to simply run out the clock, but Iowa used two of its timeouts to help regain possession with enough time to set up a 50-yard field goal by Lou Groza Award finalist Nate Kaeding, pulling the Hawkeyes within four at halftime.
The second half was largely a battle for field position and Iowa took advantage of Matt Schabert's two late third quarter interceptions, converting each into points. With two minutes, 26 seconds left in the third, Schabert threw from the shadow of his end zone, trying to find Jason Pociask over the middle. The pass was intercepted by safety Sean Considine, who returned it to the Badger one, setting up Fred Russell's go ahead touchdown. Schabert threw another interception on the next UW possession, this one leading to a 28-yard field goal from Kaeding to provide the eventual margin of victory.
"I thought turnovers would be the key in this football game," Alvarez said. "We just turned it over too many times in the second half.
"It is really hard when you keep giving a team the ball like that."
UI-Ramon Ochoa 18 run (Nate Kaeding kick) at 11:05. Three plays, 66 yards, 0:55. Iowa 7, Wisconsin 0.
UW-Anthony Davis 1 run (Mike Allen kick) at 7:32. Two plays, five yards, 0:42. Iowa 7, Wisconsin 7.
UW-Davis 4 run (Allen kick) at 0:15. Ten plays, 80 yards, 4:55. Wisconsin 14,
UW-Dwayne Smith 1 run (Allen kick) at 10:08. Six play, 36 yards, 2:46. Wisconsin 21, Iowa 7.
UI-Ochoa 6 pass from Nathan Chandler (Kaeding kick) at 4:42. Six plays, 26 yards, 2:40. Wisconsin 21, Iowa 14.
UI-Kaeding 50 field goal at 0:11. Six plays, 18 yards, 0:28. Wisconsin 21, Iowa 17.
UI-Fred Russell 1 run (Kaeding kick) at 2:11. One play, one yard, 0:05. Iowa 24, Wisconsin 21.
UI-Kaeding 28 field goal at 13:59. Five plays, 33 yards, 1:49. Iowa 27, Wisconsin 21.