Iowa 27, Arizona 17
It must have felt like 60 minutes to Arizona.
Freshman running back Adam Robinson rushed for a career-high 101 yards and two touchdowns and Iowa held Arizona to just eight first downs in a 27-17 victory Saturday, spoiling coach Mike Stoops's return to Kinnick Stadium.
Ricky Stanzi added 205 yards passing for the Hawkeyes (3-0), but this win belonged to the defense. The Hawkeyes limited the Wildcats to 253 yards of offense - including just 94 in the second half - and 2 of 12 on third-down conversions, an impressive showing before next weekend's Big Ten showdown at No. 5 Penn State.
"We said last week during practice, just go hard for six seconds every play, because that's usually how much a play takes," Iowa defensive end Broderick Binns said. "That's what we did."
Iowa's defense helped compensate for an occasionally lackluster offense, which held the ball for nearly 38 minutes but didn't put the game away until the fourth quarter.
Iowa's Daniel Murray hit a 20-yard field goal to put Iowa ahead 17-10 late in the third, and his 40-yarder following Tyler Sash's interception made it 20-10 early in the fourth.
The Hawkeyes then went on an 8 1/2-minute drive that took up much of the quarter, and Brandon Wegher's 2-yard TD plunge put Iowa ahead 27-10 with 4:40 left.
Nic Grigsby had 75 yards rushing to lead Arizona (2-1), which lost its seventh straight to a Big Ten opponent. The defeat was especially bitter for Stoops, who played for the Hawkeyes in the early '80s.
"We knew defensively they're as good as anybody we've played," Stoops said. "They're bigger, they're faster than what people give them credit for."
The Wildcats entered play with the nation's fifth-best rushing offense at 305.5 yards per game, but couldn't get the run or the pass going against an Iowa defense that took control of the game in the second half.
It was close for a while, though, until Arizona's Matt Scott threw a critical interception late in the third quarter. He heaved a deep ball that floundered like a punt until it landed in the arms of Sash, who returned his fourth interception in the past two games 41 yards to set up Murray's second field goal.
Given how well their defense was playing, the Hawkeyes were content to milk the clock. Their final touchdown drive went 74 yards in 14 plays and took away any hopes of a Wildcat comeback.
Arizona pulled Scott, who was 4 of 14 for 50 yards, in favor of Nick Foles early in the fourth quarter. Foles finished 6 of 11 and threw a 10-yard TD pass to Juron Criner with 1:53 left, the first touchdown allowed by Iowa on defense since the season opener.
Arizona's offensive woes don't figure to get any easier with the loss of tight end Rob Gronkowski. He did not travel with the Wildcats because of a strained back, and Stoops said after the game that the third-team All-American won't play all season.
The Wildcats took their only lead, 10-7, behind a breathtaking 58-yard run by Grigsby midway through the second quarter. He broke through the line, dashed to the sideline and then cut across the length of the field - traveling at least 100 yards - before being dragged down at Iowa's 1 yard line.
The Hawkeyes stuffed Arizona from there, though, forcing the Wildcats to settle for a 20-yard field goal by Alex Zendejas midway through the second quarter.
"When you can hold teams to a field goal, when they have the ball down and tight like that, it's a victory. It's not what you want, but it's a victory," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Robinson answered Grigbsy's jaw-dropping run with an impressive one of his own. Robinson went 43 yards - on third-and-23, no less - and followed with a 1-yard plunge that put the Hawkeyes back ahead with 6:28 left in the first half.
The Wildcats then went for a fake field goal on the Iowa 23, but the Hawkeyes snuffed it out to preserve a 14-10 halftime lead. That's as close as Arizona would get the rest of the game.
Iowa went 75 yards on the opening drive, and Robinson's 2-yard TD leap put the Hawkeyes ahead 7-0. Arizona cornerback Terevin Wade even things up by jumping in front of Iowa wide receiver Trey Stross, intercepting Stanzi and returning it 38 yards for a touchdown midway through the first quarter.
Grigsby, who was ranked second in the nation with 325 yards through two games, gained all but 17 of his yards on one carry.
"We've had to work hard offensively. Nic has been our big-play guy. We've got to find some other guys who can step up and make plays for us offensively. Nic can't make every play," Stoops said. "The quarterbacks have to become more consistent. We've got a long way to go."