IOWA CITY — The blitz was on, but so was Iowa rookie quarterback Jake Rudock.
With Northwestern safety Ibraheim Campbell in his face and linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo closing in quickly, the Hawkeye sophomore delivered an 8-yard strike to C.J. Fiedorowicz in overtime to lead Iowa to a 17-10 victory Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
“I had to get rid of it and I knew he wasn’t quite where he needed to be yet, so I threw the ball a little high to give him time to get there,’’ Rudock said. “He’s a tall guy. I knew he had a shot at it.’’
Fiedorowicz didn’t disappoint, scoring the Hawkeyes’ first touchdown since the opening drive of the game to end a two-game losing streak and position Iowa one win away from becoming bowl eligible.
“Everything was riding on it, and I knew Jake would put the ball where it needed to be. That’s who he is and what he does,’’ Fiedorowicz said. “I just had to go up and make a play.’’
The 6-foot-7 tight end held up his end of the deal on the third-and-seven snap.
“Nice pitch, nice catch and we didn’t have an answer,’’ Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said.
Iowa’s defense, which forced a game-changing fumble late in regulation, didn’t give the Wildcats a chance to answer.
Drew Ott dropped Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter for a 1-yard loss on the Wildcats’ first play in overtime and after Colter scrambled for a three-yard gain on second down, Desmond King broke up a third-down pass before Louis Trinca-Pasat handed Northwestern its fourth straight Big Ten loss.
Knocked down in his first attempt to get to Colter, the Hawkeye defensive tackle recovered and chased him down again. Trinca-Pasat dropped him for a 1-yard loss that ended the game and brought a sea of Hawkeyes onto the field to celebrate.
“You’d always like to win in regulation, but after losing a couple of games, this was one we had to have,’’ linebacker Anthony Hitchens said. “We had to keep fighting, whatever it took. There was no quit in this team.’’
Colter, who rushed for 166 yards a year ago against Iowa, ran for 60 yards but flustered Iowa with 11-of-14 passing for 104 yards to fuel the Wildcats’ rally.
“He’s always been a hard guy for us to get to, and that didn’t change,’’ linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “We got to him enough, though, put a little pressure on him and made him work, to give ourselves a chance.’’
Northwestern overcame a 10-0 halftime deficit, using a 10-yard touchdown pass from Colter to Dan Vitale and a 29-yard Jeff Budzien field goal to tie the game with 9 minutes, 9 seconds left in regulation.
The teams went to overtime after Iowa’s Mike Meyer missed a 42-yard field goal try into a biting north wind with 4:58 remaining in the fourth quarter and Northwestern then became its own worst enemy.
The Wildcats (4-4, 0-4 Big Ten) had marched 55 yards on four plays before Vitale was called for an illegal block while trailing a play that saw Colter gain nine yards on a carry to the Iowa 21-yard line.
The 15-yard penalty backed the Wildcats up to the 45 and on the next snap, Mike Trumpy fumbled and King recovered at midfield to give Iowa the ball with 3:14 remaining.
“We did a good job getting ourselves back into the game, but the two plays at the end of the game were inexcusable, the penalty and the fumble,’’ Fitzgerald said. “… We’re beating ourselves and we’re not good enough to do that.’’
Unable to score themselves since a 38-yard field goal by Meyer with 9:56 left in the first half, the Hawkeyes (5-3, 2-2) moved to the 35 before Rudock was picked off by Ariguzo with 7 seconds left in regulation.
“It was a tough day to get much going, and they had a lot to do with that,’’ said Rudock, who completed 19-of-27 passes for 169 yards. “We found a way to get the win, got it done and that’s the big thing. When you find yourself in a game like this, you have to keep plugging away, believing that something good will happen.’’
Eventually, Rudock and Fiedorowicz turned that into reality.
“They brought the house, but Jake did a great job of waiting until the last second and having the faith that C.J. would be in the right spot,’’ Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “C.J. is tough to defend down there in a tight area. It’s the kind of play you have to make at some point if you’re going to win conference games and for us, that play came at a great time certainly.’’