Northwestern hands No. 8 Iowa first loss

BY foxsports • November 8, 2009

With Ricky Stanzi watching from the sideline on crutches, No. 8 Iowa ran out of magic.

Dan Persa threw a touchdown pass and Marshall Thomas recovered a fumble for another score, and Northwestern dealt a crushing blow to Iowa's national championship hopes with a 17-10 victory Saturday.

Stanzi was knocked out of the game with an ankle injury in the second quarter on the play in which Thomas scored the Wildcats' first touchdown.

"Anytime you lose your quarterback, that's not good," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.

The Hawkeyes (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten) have been living dangerously all season, making a habit of comebacks and close games. Still, they were good enough to be fourth in the latest BCS standings, hoping that with a slip or two by Florida, Alabama and Texas they could end up in the BCS national championship game in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 7.

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Now that their 13-game winning streak - second longest in the nation - has been snapped, the Hawkeyes' focus can shift to the other big game in Pasadena. Iowa can still win the Big Ten and land in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 for the first time since the 1990 season.

It was the first win over a top-10 opponent for the Wildcats (6-4, 3-3 Big Ten) since knocking off No. 6 Ohio State 33-27 in overtime in 2004. It also ended the nation's second-longest winning streak.

Ferentz said Stanzi had a "severe" ankle injury. Freshman James Vandenberg was just 9 of 27 for 82 yards and couldn't lead the Hawkeyes to any points after Stanzi left the game.

Ferentz said that while preliminary X-rays on Stanzi's ankle were negative, he'll likely be out the next couple of weeks. That's not a good sign for the Hawkeyes heading into next week's game against Ohio State in Columbus. Iowa finishes up at home against Minnesota.

"Right now we just have to take the approach that he won't go, and if he does that's a bonus," Ferentz said.

Northwestern scored twice off turnovers in the second quarter. Thomas' fumble recovery made it 10-7. Drake Dunsmore caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Persa after another Iowa miscue.

Brandon Wegher had 63 yards rushing for Iowa. Stanzi was 4 of 9 for 134 yards with a touchdown, an interception and that costly fumble. Iowa committed four turnovers.

"It's hard to win football games against good, competitive teams, and that's basically everybody in our conference, if you're going to turn the ball over," Ferentz said. "If you do that week in, week out, you're not going to win many football games. That's what has allowed us to be successful. We have to get back to that formula."

Vandenberg, a native of Keokuk, Iowa, who holds the state high school record for career touchdown passes, had thrown three passes entering the game.

His inexperience showed and after the Hawkeyes won four games by three points or fewer this season they finally had a hole too deep to climb out.