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    'Cats Remove Hawkeyes from Ranks of Unbeaten with 17-10 Win

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Corey Wootton and Marshall Thomas celebrate the Wildcats' fumble recovery for touchdown.
    Corey Wootton and Marshall Thomas celebrate the Wildcats' fumble recovery for touchdown.

    Nov. 7, 2009

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    IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Northwestern forced four turnovers -- all in the second quarter -- and overcame a game-ending injury to quarterback Dan Persa to gut out a 17-10 win over fourth-ranked and previously undefeated Iowa Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. NU has now left Kinnick Stadium with a win in its last three trips to Iowa City.

    At 6-4 and with two games to play in the regular season, Northwestern assures itself of at least a .500 record this year and is now bowl eligible for the third consecutive season.

    Saturday's win is the third against a top-10 team since 2000. The Wildcats defeated No. 7 Wisconsin on the road in 2000 and No. 6 Ohio State at home in 2004.

    Mike Kafka started the game at quarterback for Northwestern (6-4, 3-3) but played sparingly in the first half before Persa took over for most of the second and third quarters. A right hand injury late in the third quarter knocked Persa out of the game and put Kafka back in the pocket, where he performed fantastically despite limited mobility as a result of a leg injury sustained vs. Penn State.

    Iowa (9-1, 5-1) jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead with a 74-yard touchdown pass on the third play from scrimmage and a 39-yard field goal on its next possession.

    Northwestern got on the scoreboard with 11:46 left in the second quarter thanks to its defense. Defensive end Corey Wootton earned his second sack of the season when he forced a Ricky Stanzi fumble in the end zone that was recovered by Marshall Thomas to cut NU's deficit to three, 10-7. The sack also knocked Stanzi, the Iowa signal-caller, out for the remainder of the game.

    The turnover-turned-touchdown ignited NU's defense, which forced turnovers on the Hawkeyes' next two possessions courtesy of a Quentin Davie interception of Iowa backup quarterback James Vandenberg and a Brad Phillips' forced fumble. Persa led the Wildcats on a 46-yard drive following the Davie pick, giving NU the lead, 14-10, on a four-yard TD strike to Drake Dunsmore.

    After both teams struggled offensively to start the second half, Kafka led NU on a 14-play, 52-yard drive spanning the end of the third and start of the fourth quarters. Stefan Demos capped the drive with a 47-yard field goal down the middle of the uprights to give the Wildcats a 17-10 advantage.

    Kafka battled through the effects of a lingering leg injury to finish 10-of-18 for 72 yards passing in the win. Scott Concannon paced Northwestern's running backs with 59 rushing yards.

    Northwestern returns to action at 11 a.m. CT next Saturday at Illinois. The game will be broadcast on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPN Classic.