IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Northern Illinois needed quarterback Jordan Lynch to carry them to a win.
Iowa’s Jake Rudock only needed to make sure he didn’t lose it for the Hawkeyes.
One big drive from Lynch — and an even bigger mistake from Rudock — helped hand the Huskies a huge road victory in Iowa City.
Mathew Sims hit a 36-yard field goal with four seconds left and Northern Illinois rallied to beat Iowa 30-27 on Saturday in the season opener for both teams.
Jordan Lynch threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns for the Huskies, who scored 10 points in the final 5:05 to give coach Rod Carey his first win.
Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward intercepted Rudock with 1:17 left. He brought it to the Hawkeyes 30-yard line, setting up the game-winning kick from Sims.
“Our guys believe, and they have a belief that if it gets to that situation, we’re going to make the plays. And we did, and that belief saw us through some tough times,” said Carey, who took over the Huskies before their 31-10 loss to Florida State in last season’s Orange Bowl.
Rudock threw for 256 yards, a touchdown and two picks in his debut for Iowa, which lost its seventh straight game dating back to last season.
“Turnovers are tough to overcome and we had three of them,” Ferentz said.
But for most of the afternoon, the Hawkeyes did a decent job containing the explosive Lynch — who last season became the first Football Bowl Subdivision quarterback to throw for over 3,000 yards and rush for more than 1,500.
Lynch showed why he’s among the nation’s best quarterbacks with the outcome in doubt.
He engineered a 6-play, 75-yard drive in just 1:37, tying the game at 27 with a 33-yard TD pass to Da’Ron Brown with 5:05 left in the fourth quarter.
Lynch also rushed for a team-high 56 yards and didn’t commit a turnover as the Huskies got some payback for an 18-17 loss to Iowa in Chicago last season.
“I think the defense and the offense, we each have each other’s back. This team can go a far way if we keep doing that,” Lynch said.
Still, the Hawkeyes had a good shot at a close win — only to blow it yet again.
Iowa had the ball at their own 45 with 1:24 left when Ward jumped a route and collected the crucial interception. Cameron Stingily picked up 11 yards on the ground to set up an easy kick for Sims.
The Hawkeyes probably needed about 30 yards or so to give standout kicker Mike Meyer a decent shot at the game winner. Instead, Ward gave Sims the chance to be the hero.
Despite the crucial interception, Ferentz was pleased with Rudock’s debut performance.
I thought Jake did a lot of positive things out there, made good decisions,” Ferentz said. “I thought his composure was good out there, his presence, so I’m really encouraged. I’m expecting nothing but improvement from him, just like I would like to see from our whole team.
The Hawkeyes lost four games by four points or less last season and finished 4-8, its worst record since 2000. That’s one of the reasons why Iowa had been so anxiously eyeing its opener for nine months.
But the Hawkeyes picked up right where they left off.
Northern Illinois opened the scoring with a field goal. Tommylee Lewis then used a double move to beat a pair of Hawkeyes on a 40-yard TD pass from Lynch, making it 10-0 late in the first quarter.
It took a stellar solo effort to get the Hawkeyes back in the game.
Senior linebacker Christian Kirksey drilled Luke Eakes in the open field, forcing a fumble he took 52 yards for a touchdown that got Iowa back within 10-7.
C.J. Fiedorowicz’s 11-yard TD grab — set up by a 53-yard flea flicker from Rudock to Jordan Cotton — made it 17-10, and the Hawkeyes led 24-17 at the break.
Lewis, who scored both first-half touchdowns for the Huskies, was carried off the field after an apparent left foot injury on the first play of the second half.
The Huskies certainly missed him. But Lynch and his teammates were there to carry them to their 22nd win in their last 24 games.
“Between Da’Ron (Brown), and Jordan (Lynch) and Tommylee (Lewis), some big plays were out there for us,” Carey said. “That’s what they were giving us so that’s what we took.”
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