Holding a 10-3 lead (and the momentum) in the second quarter, UW took over at their own 26-yard line having just completed a 92-yard touchdown drive in which Scott Tolzien converted 5-of-6 passing attempts for 67 yards. It appeared as if Tolzien had successfully rebounded from a shaky start at Ohio State last week, but in a shocking move, back-up quarterback Curt Phillips replaced Tolzien at quarterback and the UW offense went three-and-out for the first time all day.
Tolzien played from that point on, but the only time Wisconsin even got a whiff of the redzone was when the defense forced a turnover at the Iowa 25-yard line. Wisconsin didn't score a point there either.
After a handoff to John Clay for no gain, Phillips gained a total of nine yards on two straight keepers and UW was forced to punt. He almost broke a big run on second down but was taken down from behind after a gain of eight.
"I thought that second play was going to go big," head coach Bret Bielema said. "He almost broke it and there was one guy that brought him down. But woulda, shoulda, coulda. That wasn't really a decision right there, that had been determined earlier in the week."
Bielema said they saw something on film that suggested the third series of the game would be a good time to put Phillips in the game. But should he have deviated from his game plan after Tolzien led a 92-yard touchdown drive that not only he, but the entire offense needed? After all, the Badgers hadn't scored an offensive touchdown in five straight quarters.
"No we thought based on what we saw on film and where we were going it was going to be a good opportunity to get him in the football game," Bielema insisted.
Unfortunately the decision started a huge momentum swing that went away from the Badgers. They only gained two first downs the rest of the game.
"When you sit back on it and reflect on it, yeah we didn't get a first down and it's easy to say that now, but again, you go with the plan that you thought coming into it and hopefully it makes [Phillips] grow and makes us grow overall," Bielema.
Missed field goal hurt
It's hard to argue that putting Phillips in the game was the reason Wisconsin lost Saturday. It was simply a puzzling move that disrupted Wisconsin's offensive rhythm and momentum.
There were plenty of physical errors that had a greater impact on the outcome of the game, including a third quarter interception by Scott Tolzien that led to Iowa's first touchdown. Tolzien threw three interceptions in the game.
"We've played good defenses, but the turnovers ... There were two interceptions last week and three this week? That's five possessions right there where we didn't even get the punter on the field and I take blame for that," Tolzien said. "I just got to play smarter football and we got to move on from this as an offense."
Wisconsin was minus-two on turnovers Saturday, but the defense forced a Ricky Stanzi fumble in the third quarter that should have put Wisconsin back on top.
Tied at 10 with less than five minutes remaining in the third quarter, Chris Borland forced a fumble that O'Brien Schofield recovered at the Iowa 25-yard line. At the very least, Wisconsin had a golden opportunity to make a field goal to take a 13-10 lead.
After the offense failed to gain a first down, Phillip Welch missed a 38-yard field goal, his third miss in his last five tries.
"I think a big part of our demise was in the second half when we did create the turnover, good field position and then we weren't able to convert it into points," Bielema said. "Ultimately we would love to have a touchdown but when we missed the field goal as well, that was a critical point in the game."
Welch, who was put on the Lou Groza Award Watch List before the season began, is now only 8-of-14 on the year and missed two crucial field goals in the last two weeks.
"It's disappointing because I like to be known as a kicker that makes it when it's important and it's just more motivation to get better," Welch said.
After the missed field goal, Iowa went right down the field and scored a touchdown on an Adam Robinson 10-yard touchdown run. The score gave the Hawkeyes a 17-10 lead and they never looked back. After the game, O'Brien Schofield admitted the missed field goal affected them on defense.
"I don't think we approached it the right way getting on the field after that field goal miss," he said. "It's one of those things when you are playing defense you have to expect something like that to happen. You gotta be ready and we weren't ready on that drive."
Replacements on the horizon
Welch will get the opportunity to get better but he might want to do it in a hurry because Bielema indicated after the game that his kicker could lose his job.
Freshman linebacker Chris Borland - who has already done everything his team has asked him to do - is a good kicker, but Bielema said injuries are holding him back from kicking right now.
"He hasn't been able to kick because of his groin. Alec Lerner is a freshman and we planned on redshirting him, but if Phillip can't come through this then we will go to our next option."
Welch losing his job was certainly not something anyone anticipated coming into the season and neither was Scott Tolzien losing his job after jump-starting the Badgers to a 5-0 record. But Bielema hinted after the game that there could be a change behind center down the road if Tolzien doesn't play better.
"I'm not going to open it up to a quarterback controversy but Scott has to continue to grow and move forward and my guess is he'll do that," Bielema said. "We got a smaller package for Curt but every indicator is he's a guy that can win football games and we'll go with our best option."
Shades of 2005?
Saturday's game was eerily similar to Wisconsin's 2005 loss to Iowa in Barry Alvarez's last home game as head coach. In that game, the Badgers jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first half but did not score again as the Hawkeyes won 20-10.
You could hear a pin drop in the second quarter when John Clay was tackled awkwardly and needed to be helped off the field. He had already rushed for 69 yards in the game. He returned but he only rushed for six yards the rest of the day ... Redshirt freshman linebacker Mike Taylor went down in the second quarter with a right knee injury and did not return. Bielema said x-rays were negative but he will undergo further tests Sunday ... Garrett Graham suffered a concussion in the second half and did not return.
For other insights on the game, check out Adam Hoge's Web site - buckys5thquarter.com