EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — For the second straight week, Iowa fell way behind before showing life on offense.
The Hawkeyes rallied late, scoring a touchdown late in the third quarter and another touchdown midway through the fourth before falling 28-17 to Northwestern on Saturday.
"We kind of tightened up and played good football (in the fourth quarter)," said Hawkeyes safety Micah Hyde, who recovered a fumble. "The matter is just getting it done earlier in the game."
Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter scored three rushing touchdowns and threw for another score.
Iowa (4-4, 2-2) has lost two straight to fall further out of contention in the Big Ten Leaders Division. Last week, the Hawkeyes trailed Penn State by 38 before losing 38-14.
This time, Iowa fell behind 28-3 in the third quarter. The Hawkeyes cut the lead to 28-17 with 6:37 remaining on quarterback James Vandenberg's 1-yard run to cap an 84-yard drive after Iowa recovered a fumble.
Iowa drove to the Northwestern 24 with 1:49 left, but Vandenberg threw an incomplete pass on fourth-and-3 to end the threat. Vandenberg finished 24 for 38 for 214 yards and ran for two touchdowns.
Iowa finished with 336 yards on offense, and Vandenberg was sacked three times.
"We got backed into a corner where you have to start going no-huddle and start throwing the ball around," Vandenberg said. "We were able to get some stuff done that way. But ultimately it was the flaws of the first half that cost us the game."
Running back Damon Bullock rushed for 107 yards on 22 carries and caught five passes for 41 yards in his first action since suffering a concussion against Northern Iowa on Sept. 15.
"Damon did a lot of good things out there, especially considering how long it's been since he's played," coach Kirk Ferentz said. "He gave us a little bit of a spark out there."
Iowa turned to Bullock after top running back Mark Weisman exited late in the second quarter with an undisclosed injury. Ferentz declined to elaborate on Weisman's injury and said he will be assessed next week. The Hawkeyes next play at Indiana.
Weisman sprained an ankle two weeks ago against Michigan State. He rushed for 9 yards against Penn State last week.
Northwestern (7-2, 3-2) has won four of its last five against Iowa. The Wildcats have been struggling with their passing game but found success with their running game.