"I told the guys in the locker room, ‘This is classic Wisconsin football,'" Bielema said. "I'm sure the AD (Barry Alvarez) was proud of this game today. It was a knock-out, drag-out, four-quarter game."
Heck, Bielema even ditched the red-on-red uniforms for the traditional red jerseys with white pants.
The game started with both teams struggling to find a rhythm on offense. In the first half, there were only three third-conversions — Iowa was 2-for-11 while Wisconsin was 1-for-8.
With a tough defensive battle at hand, the game was going to be all about timing and choosing when to strike offensively.
"We were just able to just come together at the right times and put together the right drives at the right time," said UW wide receiver Luke Swan, who finished with three catches for 62 yards.
The scoring gates opened with just under five minutes remaining in the half.
Wisconsin quarterback Tyler Donovan threw his first interception of the season and the first in his last 88 passing attempts, dating back to last season's game versus Buffalo. Iowa linebacker A.J. Edds picked off Donovan on a crossing route, helping to set up a 41-yard field goal.
But with just about two minutes remaining in the half, Wisconsin was able to answer right back. Donovan completed three consecutives passes for 48 combined yards to put the Badgers in the red-zone before P.J. Hill ran 17 yards before coughing up the football.
Center Marcus Coleman recovered the ball in the end zone, but the touchdown was called back to the three-yard line due to an inadvertent whistle. Donovan then hit tight end Travis Beckum for the touchdown.
Less than two minutes remained on the clock, but the scoring wasn't over. Iowa marched right back and quarterback Jake Christensen hit freshman wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos for a 21-yard touchdown pass.
Johnson-Koulianos beat out All-Big Ten cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu on the play and was able to snag the ball with one hand for the score.
"I think he got a little bit on my back but you have to move on," Ikegwuonu said of the play and the possibility of Johnson-Koulianos pushing off. "[The referee] made the call and you have to live with it."
The scoring fireworks fizzled in the second half, though. The third quarter was a scoreless affair, but that was the kind of second half the Badgers wanted. They wanted to give the ball to P.J. Hill and have him wear down the Hawkeyes.
In the second half, Hill ran for 74 yards to finish with 113 net yards on the night. But it only took him 36 yards to help finish off the game.
To start off the fourth quarter, Hill ran the ball 10 times for 36 yards on Wisconsin's 11-play drive. His two-yard touchdown run put Wisconsin up 14-10.
"He's always going to ask for the ball, and we're going to give it to him," Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said.
Iowa would come back with a field goal, but Wisconsin's Taylor Mehlhaff booted a 40-yard touchdown to put the Badgers up 17-13 with just about two minutes left.
Wisconsin's defense was able to hold Iowa on the Hawkeyes' last possession and help the Badgers take home the Hartland Trophy. However, Iowa wide receiver Paul Chaney Jr. was almost able to win the game.
On fourth-and-eight, Iowa had one last chance. Christensen dropped back, looking for anyone down field. Chaney Jr. broke past the Badgers' secondary, but Christensen overthrew him and Wisconsin ran off the remaining 1:24 off the clock.
"I can't wait to see it tomorrow," Bielema said. "I can't believe that that happened … I don't know if he just out-ran us or what."
While it wasn't the cleanest game, much of the Badgers felt it was a good way to open the Big Ten season.
"We got out of the non-conference schedule, but the Big Ten season is a whole different season, so we had to step it up," cornerback Allen Langford said. "We played with a lot more confidence and swagger and had a good day."