IOWA CITY – Wisconsin needed every minute it had Saturday to fight off the upset-minded Iowa football team.
In a Big Ten opener that had a West Division championship feel in front of a sellout crowd at Kinnick Stadium, the 18th-rated Badgers scored two touchdowns in the final minute to secure a 28-17 victory.
A.J. Taylor wrapped his arms around the game-deciding score with 58 seconds remaining, pushing Wisconsin in front 21-17 with a 17-yard touchdown reception that erased a 17-14 advantage Iowa had owned since the final minutes of the third quarter.
Taylor’s catch capped a 17-of-22 passing performance by Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook that covered 205 yards and reached the end zone three times.
The junior completed all five passes he attempted during a game-winning 10-play, 88-yard touchdown drive which started after Iowa punted the ball away with 5:40 remaining in the game.
Wisconsin ensured that it would retain possession of the Heartland Trophy for the third straight year when T.J. Edwards intercepted a Nate Stanley pass with :38 seconds remaining and Alec Ingold busted free for a 33-yard touchdown with :12 to go.
The loss – the Hawkeyes fifth in as many tries against the Badger at Kinnick Stadium since 2008 – was the first in four games for Iowa and spoiled an otherwise solid start by Stanley.
The Iowa junior threw for 229 yards, completing 11 of his first 14 passes, but connected on just two of his final eight attempts as Wisconsin outgained the Hawkeyes 176-38 yards in the final quarter.
Stanley connected on six of the seven passes he attempted in the third quarter, helping Iowa build the 17-14 advantage it carried into the fourth.
The Menomonie, Wisconsin, native who endured an 8-of-24 passing performance a year ago at Camp Randall Stadium in his first start against his home state school, connected with tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant repeatedly in critical situations.
He hit Hockenson for a 46-yard gain for the second time in the game on the opening drive of the second half.
Hockenson, who finished with a career-high 115 receiving yards, was pulled down the Wisconsin 6-yard line, the eventual spot where Miguel Recinos connected on a 24-yard field goal which put the Hawkeyes ahead for the first time at 10-7.
A special teams mistake erased the lead Iowa took just under five minutes into the second half.
Following a 37-yard punt by Anthony Lotti that was rolling around, the heel of the Hawkeyes’ Shaun Beyer caught the ball.
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Wisconsin recovered at the Iowa 10-yard line and three plays later, Hornibrook hit Danny Davis with a 12-yard touchdown pass that left Iowa in a 14-10 hole with 5:12 remaining in the quarter.
Stanley connected with all four receivers he targeted on the ensuing possession.
He hit Fant twice, once for an eight-yard gain that was followed by a late hit call on the Badgers’ Ryan Connelly which moved the ball to the Badgers’ 31-yard line.
A pair of nine-yard carries by Madison native Toren Young followed by an 11-yard pass to fullback Brady Ross set Iowa up on the Wisconsin 1-yard where Fant pulled down his second touchdown reception of the game to move the Hawkeyes back into the lead.
Iowa, which shares a 3-1 record with the Badgers, forged a 7-7 tie at the half by using a pair of quick strikes to Hawkeye tight ends to answer a score by Wisconsin earlier in the second quarter.
The Hawkeyes answer came on consecutive passes of 46 and 20 yards from Stanley to Hockenson and Fant.
Stanley’s second-longest pass play of the season came after a delay of game penalty turned a third-and-4 situation into a third-and-9 predicament for Iowa.
Under plenty of heat from the Badgers’ defense, a scrambling Stanley found Hockenson in traffic and hit him as he was brought down on the Wisconsin 20-yard line.
Part of a 5-of-7 start for Stanley, the Iowa junior hit a wide-open Fant for a 20-yard score which tied the game with 5:15 remaining in the half.
The score came on the Hawkeyes’ second trip into the red zone.
The first came on Iowa’s opening possession of the game, a drive that moved the ball 72 yards but stalled when Stanley failed to gain the needed one yard on a fourth-and-1 quarterback sneak from the Wisconsin 5-yard line.
The Badgers answered with a 95-yard drive, setting up a 6-yard touchdown pass from Hornibrook to Jake Ferguson with a with a 39-yard pass to Gabe Lloyd on the first snap of the second quarter.
The first of Hornibrook’s three touchdown passes in the game followed a scoreless opening quarter which saw the Hawkeyes test the Badgers early on the edge with mixed results.
Ivory Kelly-Martin finished with 72 yards to lead Iowa, while Jonathan Taylor led Wisconsin with 113 yards on 25 carries.