Through the first quarter, quarterback John Stocco was 7 of 10 for 113 yards, receiver Brandon Williams had caught three passes for 63 yards and a touchdown and tailback Brian Calhoun had 40 yards receiving and 18 yards rushing.
Three quarters later, Wisconsin's fast start was a footnote in Iowa's dominant defensive performance.
After Taylor Mehlhaff's 24-yard field goal, Wisconsin punted on its next eight possessions, accumulating just 72 yards on those drives combined. Before a meaningless 10-play, 68-yard drive that ended when the clock struck zero, the Badgers had gone three-and-out four consecutive times, totaling a miserable -16 yards on those fitful possessions.
"Am I disappointed?," co-offensive coordinator Brian White said. "Absolutely. And frustrated… This is the game, in my opinion, that if we played the way we were capable of playing we had a chance to win it.
"With that said we didn't deserve to win that game today… based on the lack of execution and the fact that we had plenty of chances and didn't capitalize on them."
In hindsight, settling for Mehlhaff's field goal was a harbinger of things to come.
UW marched 64 yards to the Iowa 2 in 10 plays, Williams' nine-yard run on a reverse setting up second-and-one. But Calhoun was strung out for no gain running wide left and a false start penalty on senior tight end Joel Nellis pushed the Badgers back to the 7. Safety Miguel Merrick then broke up Stocco's pass for tight end Owen Daniels in the back of the end zone.
"We really didn't muster much offense after that," head coach Barry Alvarez said. "Protection broke down, particularly in the second half and we never did establish a running game."
Calhoun, who ran for 1,218 yards in UW's first nine games, was held to a then-season-low 38 yards by Penn State last week. Saturday against the Hawkeyes he managed just 18 yards on 15 carries, including zero yards on nine attempts after the first stanza.
"It's frustrating and you always question whether you are patient enough with (the running game) and yet it's hard to be second-and-long too and go with it," co-offensive coordinator Paul Chryst said. "We got to just take a look at it again and find a way to be able to get some things because you just have too much of a weapon with Brian."
Calhoun did catch eight passes for 69 yards, but only 24 of those yards came after halftime.
"You don't want to make him one-dimensional and just be able to get him the ball on screens or out of the backfield," Chryst said.
But with the running game completely shutdown for the second week in a row, the Badgers were one-dimensional. And just like Penn State's a week ago, Iowa's front four turned it loose. The Hawkeyes sacked Stocco six times.
"Any time you allow one sack it's too many," left tackle Joe Thomas said. "If he got sacked six times, that was six too many."
Stocco was sacked on four of UW's first six plays in the fourth quarter, leading to a pair of three-and-outs.
"When that happens, we had some errors probably in the protection and didn't get open in the back end," Chryst said. "It's a combination that created problems."
The Badgers also missed some opportunities for big plays in the passing game. Late in the second quarter Jonathan Orr got behind corner Jovon Johnson on a flea-flicker, but Orr's route was too flat towards the sideline, allowing Johnson to break up the pass.
Early in the third quarter, Brandon Williams burned Antwan Allen deep but dropped Stocco's pass at about the Iowa 30. Had Williams caught the pass, he likely would have gone in for a 79-yard touchdown.
"John put one right on the money," Alvarez said. "He normally doesn't drop it. So those things hurt. That one with Brandon, I really thought that took the air out of us a little bit."
Stocco sets single-season passing mark: Stocco finished 21 of 38 for 257 yards, giving him 2,428 passing yards this season. That is a new UW record, surpassing Darrell Bevell's 2,390 in 1993. Stocco also moved past Jim Sorgi and into fifth on UW's career passing yardage list at 4,550.