MADISON, Wis. — This one stung.
It was there in the slight but unusual quiver in quarterback Nate Stanley’s voice.
It was there as running back Toren Young shook his head, discussing the frustration of it all.
Saturday’s 24-22 loss to Wisconsin, a defeat which all-but eliminated 18th-ranked Iowa from the championship race in the Big Ten West Division, hit home for the two Wisconsin natives who led the Hawkeyes in the setback at Camp Randall Stadium.
“It’s never been about coming home and playing here,’’ Young said. “It’s been about winning for the team that we’re a part of and doing what we can with this group of guys to win as many games as we can.’’
That opportunity slipped through the Hawkeyes’ hands, turned away by a Wisconsin defense which stood Stanley up just shy of the goal line on his attempt to tie the game on a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter. The Badgers made life difficult from start to finish in their fourth straight win in the battle for the Heartland Trophy.
Iowa totaled 295 yards of offense, its second-lowest output of the season, and was held to a 1-of-9 conversion rate on third down by a Wisconsin team which kept its division title hopes alive.
“I can’t really put the feelings into words,’’ Stanley said. “It sucks, but we can’t hang our heads. We have another tough game next week and we have to find a way to get ready again.’’
Stanley completed 17-of-28 passes for 208 yards and found the end zone for two fourth-quarter touchdowns as Iowa attempted to overcome the 21-6 hole it found itself in as the final quarter began.
“Going to our tempo offense (in the second half), it helped us find a rhythm,’’ Stanley said. “It got us going a bit.’’
But in a game when Iowa needed to start quickly, the senior from Menomonie, Wisconsin, was sacked once in the first half and fumbled to set up the Badgers’ go-ahead touchdown drive in the second quarter.
Young, who grew up nearby in Monona Grove, Wisconsin, carried the ball nine times and led the Hawkeyes with 44 of their 87 rushing yards.
“It was a tough loss, this one hurts because it was a big game for us and we didn’t get it done,’’ Young said. “We put in so much work and preparation for these moments and we didn’t get the win.’’
Like the losses to the other two ranked opponents Iowa has faced, Michigan and Penn State, the 16th-ranked Badgers denied Iowa an opportunity to move forward.
“For those guys coming home, and we’ve got a lot of Wisconsin guys on our team, this was a big game for them,’’ said receiver Tyrone Tracy, who finished with 130 yards on five catches. “Nate, he’s a senior, his last chance here, leader of our team, you want it for them and it didn’t happen.’’