EVANSTON, Ill. — Finding a way to win while losing starters to injury has become a reality for Iowa this season.
It happened again on Saturday.
Akrum Wadley stepped in for injured running back Jordan Canzeri and ran for 204 yards and tied a school record with four rushing touchdowns to carry the No. 17-ranked Hawkeyes over No. 20 Northwestern 40-10.
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With the victory, Iowa (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) grabbed control of the West Division race and does not have a ranked opponent left on its regular-season schedule.
Despite being down five starters before the game, the Hawkeyes continued to roll and are off to their best start since their 2009 Orange Bowl season when they won nine in a row.
"The toughness and the fight of this team has – you can expect that any week," quarterback C.J. Beathard said. "The way this team fights, I felt like we would come out on top."
With Canzeri sidelined in the first quarter with an ankle injury, Wadley took over for Iowa. The injury occurred following a short run when Northwestern linebacker Jaylen Prater landed on Canzeri, folding his ankle under a pile of players.
Afterward, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said it is believed Canzeri suffered a sprain. The Hawkeyes are off next week.
"Next man in – we’ve got four great backs (and) it’s just big play waiting to happen," Wadley said. "Any one of us is capable of making big runs and I just stepped up to the plate."
Wadley, who had only eight carries coming into the game, scored his third touchdown on a 2-yard run with 6:42 remaining in the third quarter, extending Iowa’s lead to 23-10. His record-tying fourth scoring run, which followed a Northwestern fumble on the Wildcats ensuing drive, came on a 4-yard run.
Northwestern (5-2, 1-2) turned the ball over three times as the Wildcats lost for the second straight week after five consecutive victories. After losing 38-0 to Michigan last week, the Wildcats’ defense – which was surrendering a Football Bowl Subdivision-leading seven points a game prior to the loss against the Wolverines – struggled again. They allowed 492 total yards.
Northwestern scored 10 points in the second quarter to get within 16-10 at the half. Quarterback Clayton Thorson connected with Christian Jones on a 4-yard touchdown pass before Jack Mitchell hit a 20-yard field goal with 2:40 remaining in the second quarter. Northwestern failed to score the rest of the way.
The Wildcats are attempting to avoid the kind of collapse they experienced in 2013 when Northwestern lost seven straight games after winning its first four.
"We’ll get right back to work – the team has to make a decision. (Are we) the team that won five games and made plays and we’re making plays all over the place," coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "Or (are we) a team the last two weeks quite frankly that is void of making plays."