IOWA CITY, Ia. — For as large-open as the Huge Ten Conference’s West Division appeared, one of the best workforce turned out to be the one that was quietly and unconventionally the perfect all alongside.
Overlook it, Wisconsin.
Overlook it, sneaky-good Purdue.
And overlook it for 2018, Iowa.
Northwestern has gone wire-to-wire and undoubtedly deserves to savor every bit of its first Massive Ten West championship behind a gritty type without flash.
Sound acquainted, Hawkeyes fans?
The Wildcats opened their season on a Thursday night time in August in West Lafayette, Indiana, and used a workmanlike strategy to grind out a West Division win towards Purdue. The victory did not seem that essential at the time.
But on Saturday night time, with three starting defensive backs and two kickers out with injuries, the Wildcats put the division away. This time, they took down Iowa 14-10 before 66,493 chilly and increasingly surly fans at Kinnick Stadium.
Northwestern made plays when it counted — like that clutch 32-yard connection from Clayton Thorson to Bennett Skowronek with 9 minutes, 27 seconds left in the game.
The coverage was good by Michael Ojemudia. The throw and catch were better.
Time after time, Iowa failed to come through.
“I don’t know if there’s an explanation at this point. Just been not enough,” defensive end Anthony Nelson said. “That’s what it comes down to. We haven’t done enough.”
MORE: Iowa’s mistakes costly as Northwestern dances off with division title
Those fumbles … boy, couldn’t have been a worse time.
As has been the theme of the season, the Hawkeyes still had a chance to win a game in the fourth quarter despite playing a shaky game.
But then, a streak that has spanned more than a year came to an end — and then repeated itself a few minutes later.
Trailing 14-10, Iowa’s offense suddenly found a spark. Consecutive 10-yard completions from Nate Stanley to Nick Easley then Mekhi Sargent put Iowa at its own 49 with 4½ minutes to play.
Then … Sargent became the first Hawkeye running back to lose a fumble in 490 rushing attempts. That remarkable string dated to James Butler losing a second-quarter fumble (after a video review) against Minnesota on Oct. 28, 2017.
Still, Iowa got a stop … and…