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Iowa defensive finish A.J. Epenesa particulars the problem of repeated dropping and what his staff must do to cease skid
Mark Emmert, memmert@gannett.com

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Once again, the Iowa soccer workforce dug its personal grave Saturday.

Solely this time, the Hawkeyes needed to watch Northwestern dance all over it.

“That’s no good. That’s going to harm for the rest of the night time,” Iowa cornerback Michael Ojemudia stated after his group misplaced a third consecutive close recreation, this one 14-10 to the Wildcats before a frigid crowd announced at 66,493 in Kinnick Stadium.

Northwestern (6-4, 6-1 Big Ten Conference) clinched its first West Division title, gleefully racing to the locker room afterward to continue a loud celebration while Ojemudia and his teammates could only wince at the scene.

“We’ve been close every single year, and kind of looking for a team to lose and leave the door open for us,” said Northwestern wide receiver Bennett Skowronek, who made a brilliant one-handed diving catch for a 32-yard touchdown with 9:27 left that ended up being the game-winner. “To come here, win and clinch it with a couple games left was really special.”

The door was open for Iowa (6-4, 3-4) this year as well. The Hawkeyes kept pushing it closed.

► Analysis:Iowa run defense can’t stop Northwestern freshman, and pays the price

Each league loss has come with a different frustrating sequence of mistakes. Against Wisconsin, a pair of flubs in the punt-return game will be long remembered. At Penn State, it was a late interception on the goal line that sealed the Hawkeyes’ fate. At Purdue last week, the Hawkeye pass defense was suddenly vulnerable.

On Saturday, Iowa couldn’t move the ball on the ground, gaining a mere 64 rushing yards on 22 carries. The Hawkeyes had difficulty making deep pass connections, aside from a pair to Ihmir Smith-Marsette, who scored the lone touchdown. The Hawkeyes converted only 3 of 14 third- and fourth-down chances, leading to seven punts that averaged only 34.9 yards. Even kicker Miguel Recinos missed his first field goal in 12 chances, a 38-yarder pushed right by the wind and clanging off the upright.

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Compounding all of that, the Hawkeyes saw running backs Mekhi…