The Big 10 West simply did not look their best on Saturday. Nebraska had just snuck out a fourth quarter win against the McNeese State Cowboys. Illinois struggled to defeat a offensive minded Western Kentucky Hilltopper gang. Purdue lost by 3 touchdowns at home to the Chippewas of Central Michigan. Wisconsin struggled early on against the Western Illinois Leathernecks. The Northwestern Wildcats lost to in-state competition in the Northern Illinois Huskies. The Minnesota Golden Gophers struggled to put away the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders. The only team left were the Iowa Hawkeyes, and things were certainly looking grim. The Hawkeyes, however, managed to put Ball State away for a 17-13 win on Saturday.
Iowa had a chance to take an early lead in the first quarter, but they missed the opportunity on a 35 yard missed field goal by Marshall Koehn. Then, on their next drive, they lost the ball and Blake Dueitt rumbled 35 yards to the end zone for a Cardinals touchdown and an early 7-0 lead for the road team.
Jake Rudock bounced back on the next drive and hit Jordan Canzeri out of the backfield on a wheel route for a long pass for the Hawkeyes to get a 50 yard gain. This would enable the Hawkeyes to get their only points of the first half after the drive stalled out in the red zone. Marshall Koehn was great this time hitting the 26 yard field goal. But the struggles for Koehn would continue, as he would miss a 37 yard field goal right before the end of the first half, just again showing how important special teams can be in football. It was the difference between a 9-7 Hawkeye lead instead of the 7-3 deficit they were facing against the Cardinals.
Ball State showed they could kick some field goals early in the second half, taking the opening drive of the second half down the field so that Scott Secor could nail a 42 yard field goal. Then Hawkeye return man Jonathan Parker would fumble the kickoff return and the Cardinals recovered. They ended up settling for another Secor field goal, this time from 27 yards out.
Iowa got the ball back and again moved the ball down the field well, getting into the red zone before the drive would stall out again for them, leading to another field goal opportunity. But the coaching staff put out Mick Ellis for a change of pace and he came in and missed a 29 yard field goal. There would be a few punts back and forth, but the Hawkeyes got the ball with 5:50 left in the game down 13-3 and there was not much of an opportunity for hope at this point. Damon Bullock ran for a first down and then caught two passes to be an integral part of this drive. Jake Rudock would hit Derrick Willies for a 12 yard touchdown pass and Mick Ellis nailed the extra point to put the Hawkeyes within striking distance at this point in the game.
After the ensuing kickoff, the Iowa Hawkeyes called back-to-back timeouts after 3 yard gain and a 3 yard loss by Cardinal running back Jahwan Edwards. They forced an incompletion on third down and on the next drive Jake Rudock completed all four of his passes, including the final two to Jake Duzey. The second one did in fact give the Iowa Hawkeyes the lead they had been seeking since the beginning of the game. Mick Ellis hit the extra point again to put the Hawkeyes up 17-13 with a minute remaining. Cardinal quarterback Ozzie Mann quickly ended any comeback though by fumbling the ball on second down, Iowa would recover and take a knee to run out the clock and end the game.
Next game up for each team, Iowa will host their in-state rival Iowa State for the Cy-Hawk trophy, while Ball State will play an in-state opponent also in the Indiana State Sycamores. Iowa will be looking to remain undefeated while the Cyclones will be looking for their first win after losing to North Dakota State and Kansas State in back to back weeks. The Cy-Hawk trophy is always a good game, so Hawkeyes fans should hope they can get an earlier lead next week, instead of waiting until the closing minutes to take control.