Rudock's INT leads to crushing loss for Iowa
IOWA CITY — Iowa was roughly 30 yards away from possibly snapping a six-game losing streak that has hung over the program's head for nearly a year.
One big mistake from new Hawkeyes quarterback Jake Rudock helped keep the skid going for at least another week.
Mathew Sims hit a 36-yard field goal with four seconds left and Northern Illinois rallied to beat Iowa 30-27 on Saturday in the season opener for both teams.
Jordan Lynch threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns for the Huskies, who scored 10 points in the final 5:05 to give coach Rod Carey his first win.
Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward intercepted Rudock at midfield with 1:17 left. He brought it to the Hawkeyes 30-yard line, setting up the game-winning kick from Sims.
"We were trying to complete a pass, move the ball down the field and I thought we had a good situation there, really did," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "But turnovers are tough to overcome, and we had three of them."
Rudock threw for 256 yards, a touchdown and two picks in his debut for Iowa, which lost its seventh straight game dating back to last season.
For most of the afternoon, the Hawkeyes did a decent job containing the explosive Lynch — who last season became the first Football Bowl Subdivision quarterback to throw for over 3,000 yards and rush for more than 1,500.
Lynch showed why he's among the nation's best quarterbacks with the outcome in doubt.
He engineered a 6-play, 75-yard drive in just 1:37, tying the game at 27 with a 33-yard TD pass to Da'Ron Brown with 5:05 left in the fourth quarter.
Lynch also rushed for a team-high 56 yards and didn't commit a turnover as the Huskies got some payback for an 18-17 loss to Iowa in Chicago last season.
"We knew it was going to be tough coming on the road at Iowa. It's tough playing here at Kinnick, 70,000 fans cheering against you — being down by seven in the fourth quarter, that's not easy and that doesn't happen everywhere else," Lynch said.
Still, the Hawkeyes had a good shot at a close win — only to blow it yet again.
Iowa had the ball at their own 45 with 1:24 left when Ward jumped a route and collected the crucial interception.
The Hawkeyes probably needed about 30 yards or so to give standout kicker Mike Meyer a decent shot at the game winner. Instead, Ward gave Sims the chance to be the hero.
Despite the crucial interception, Ferentz was pleased with Rudock's debut performance.
I thought Jake did a lot of positive things out there, made good decisions," Ferentz said. "I thought his composure was good out there, his presence, so I'm really encouraged. I'm expecting nothing but improvement from him, just like I would like to see from our whole team.
The Hawkeyes lost four games by four points or less last season and finished 4-8, its worst record since 2000. That's one of the reasons why Iowa had been so anxiously eyeing its opener for nine months.
But the Hawkeyes picked up right where they left off.
Northern Illinois opened the scoring with a field goal. Tommylee Lewis then used a double move to beat a pair of Hawkeyes on a 40-yard TD pass from Lynch, making it 10-0 late in the first quarter.
It took a stellar solo effort to get the Hawkeyes back in the game.
Linebacker Christian Kirksey drilled Luke Eakes in the open field, forcing a fumble he took 52 yards for a touchdown that got Iowa back within 10-7.
C.J. Fiedorowicz's 11-yard TD grab — set up by a 53-yard flea flicker from Rudock to Jordan Cotton — made it 17-10, and the Hawkeyes led 24-17 at the break.
But they only got a field goal after that. And although the Hawkeyes will be heavily favored to snap their losing skid when FCS school Missouri State visits next weekend, this loss might sting for quite a while.
"There were a lot of positive things that we saw out there on the field by a lot of different guys, but the bottom line is we just didn't make enough plays to be successful. To their credit, they capitalized, and we didn't do that," Ferentz said.