IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward's interception with 1:17 remaining in the fourth quarter set up a Mathew Sims' game-winning field goal, as the Huskies rallied for a 30-27 victory over the University of Iowa football team Saturday inside Kinnick Stadium.
With the score tied at 27, Iowa took over at its own 45-yardline with 1:24 remaining. On the first play of the possession, UI quarterback Jake Rudock targeted senior Kevonte Martin-Manley on an out route on the Hawkeye sideline. Ward jumped the route before returning the ball to the Iowa 30.
The Huskies ran nine yards up the middle on first down and two yards to the left on second down to the 19. With 10 seconds remaining, Sims connected on a 36-yard field goal to propel Northern Illinois to a season-opening victory.
"This was a tough game to lose," said UI head coach Kirk Ferentz. "Give Northern Illinois credit, they did a great job. There were a lot of positive things we saw out there on the field, but the bottom line is we didn't make enough plays to be successful.
"Turnovers are hard to overcome, and we had three of them today. At the end of the day, that makes it hard."
Iowa outgained Northern Illinois, 458-438, in the contest. The Hawkeyes had 202 yards rushing and 256 yards in the air. The Huskies threw for 275 yards and had 163 on the ground.
Rudock finished 21-of-37 for 256 yards with one touchdown to two interceptions in his first career start. Junior running back Mark Weisman had 20 carries for 100 yards, and junior Damon Bullock had 17 attempts for 76 yards. Martin-Manley had a career-best nine receptions for 79 yards.
Huskie quarterback Jordan Lynch, a Heisman Trophy candidate, finished 25-of-41 for 275 yards and three touchdowns. He also led the team with 56 yards rushing on 22 attempts. Wide receivers Da'Ron Brown and TommyLee Lewis combined for 12 catches for 174 yards and three scores.
Iowa (0-1) had previously won all eight games vs. Northern Illinois (1-0) in the series, but game nine went to the Huskies on Saturday. It was the first season opener that the Huskies have won, since 1983. Iowa had previously won 12 straight openers under Ferentz.
Senior linebackers Christian Kirksey and Anthony Hitchens both finished in double digits in tackles. Kirksey had a team-best 14 stops, which included a forced fumble and return for a 52-yard touchdown. Hitchens had 13 stops.
After the first half was dominated by the offenses, the defenses took the stage in the second half. Northern Illinois limited the Hawkeyes to 156 yards over the final 30 minutes after giving up 302 yards in the first half.
The two defenses traded stops during the first five possessions and an Iowa interception on the sixth set up Northern Illinois' first points of the second half. After taking over at midfield following Dechan Durante's pick, the Huskies used an eight-play, 44-yard drive to make the score 24-20. Trickery set up the score, as Huskie punter Tyler Wedel scampered 42 yards on an option following a fake punt to the Iowa 9. Iowa's defense stiffened, before Sims connected on 25-yard field goal.
"We had to find a way to make a play," said NIU head coach Rod Carey on the fake punt. "They hemmed us up on offense and we had to do something to get going. We thought we had an opportunity to run it, saw what we did, then waited for the correct time and executed it."
Early in the fourth quarter, the Hawkeyes scored their only points of the second half following a 10-play, 44-yard drive. Weisman and Bullock combined for 37 yards on the series to set up Mike Meyer's 44-yard field goal that made the score 27-20 with 6:42 remaining.
Northern Illinois used a quick-strike attack to even the game at 27 with 5:05 left. Lynch completed all five attempts on the drive, which included a 33-yard strike to Brown in the corner of the end zone.
"I give a ton of credit to Iowa," said Carey. "They are a storied program, a great football team and are well coached. They did some things to us today that really slowed us down, and it was really hard sledding."
The Huskies got off to a quick start, jumping out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. The first score was set up by a Weisman fumble on Iowa's second possession. Northern Illinois moved 23 yards over five plays before Sims connected on a 47-yard field goal to make the score 3-0.
After Iowa's third drive stalled after four plays, the Huskies covered 50 yards in four plays to take a 10-0 lead. On third-and-17, Iowa's Louis Trinca-Pasat was whistled for a hold to set up a third-and-7 from the NIU 43. Lynch found Brown to move the chains before Jones used a triple move to turn around sophomore Jordan Lomax for a 40-yard touchdown catch with 1:37 remaining in the first quarter.
After moving the ball to the NIU 36, Iowa turned the ball over on downs, but the Iowa defense swung the momentum. On second-and-6 from midfield, Lynch completed a screen pass to Luke Eades, where Kirksey popped him to force a fumble, swooped up the ball and raced 48 yards for the touchdown. It was Kirksey's first fumble return for a score and third career touchdown.
"It was a great play to knock it out and have the presence of mind to grab it and put it in the end zone," said Ferentz.
The defense kept the momentum in Iowa's favor with a three-and-out, and the Hawkeyes used a 13-play, 55-yard drive to even the score at 10. Following completions of seven yards to Jacob Hillyer and 14 yards to Martin-Manley to start the drive, Iowa used seven-straight rushes to move the ball to the NIU 13. After the drive stalled, Meyer's 28-yard chip shot tied the contest.
After a second straight three-and-out by the Hawkeye defense, good ole' fashion trickery gave Iowa a 17-10 lead. After taking over at its own 35, Rudock connected with Jordan Cotton for a 53-yard strike on a Weisman-to-Rudock flea flicker to the NIU 12. On third-and-9, C.J. Fiedorowicz and Rudock connected on a jump ball at the goal line to give Iowa the seven-point lead with 6:32 left in the half.
Lynch had an answer, moving the Huskies 75 yards over eight plays to tie the game at 17. After moving to midfield via three rushes and a screen, Lynch used completions of 18, 17, and 21 yards, the latter of which was a 21-yard scoring strike to Lewis with 3:49 remaining.
Iowa took a 24-17 lead into the locker room following an eight-play, 75-yard drive. Bullock opened the series with rushes of seven yards to the right and 10 yards up the middle to the Iowa 42. Rudock followed with a 15-yard completion to Martin-Manley into NIU territory and an additional 15 yards were tacked on following a 15-yard facemask penalty.
The Hawkeyes then converted a pair of third downs to extend the drive. On third-and-4 from the 22, Rudock found Martin-Manley for a 10-yard gain on a sprint out. On third-and-4 from the 6, Rudock scrambled to his left, dove for the pylon to find the end zone.
Iowa had 302 yards in the first half; Rudock was 13-of-21 for 188 yards and a touchdown with completions to seven different receivers. Martin-Manley had six of those catches for 60 yards.
The Hawkeyes (0-1) return to action Sept. 7, hosting Missouri State (0-1) at 11 a.m. (CT). The game will be televised by the Big Ten Network.
"You play 12 games and we've got 13 weeks in front of us right now," said Ferentz. "What we choose to do with every day and every opportunity will determine the season. We made some mistakes that were tough to overcome, and we're going to have to do better than that."
Iowa will play three more OOC opponents in September. In addition to Missouri State next week, in-state rival Iowa State and Western Michigan, both lost in Week 1.
Northern Iowa (1-0) traveled to Ames on Saturday and upset Iowa State (0-1) 28-20. Iowa travels to Iowa State in Week 3.
Iowa's Week 4 opponent, Western Michigan (0-1) lost 26-13 at Michigan State (1-0) on Friday night.
One game doesn't make a season, but Iowa needs to find a way to shift away from the seven game losing streak against FBS opponents. Iowa will play an FCS opponent on Saturday.