EVANSTON, Ill. (Sports Network) - Dan Persa threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes, including a 20-yard strike to Demetrius Fields with 1:22 remaining, and Northwestern rallied to beat 13th-ranked Iowa, 21-17, and deliver a crushing blow to the Hawkeyes' Big Ten title dreams.
Persa, who was injured on the go-ahead score, connected on 32-of-43 tosses for 318 yards and added a rushing touchdown for the Wildcats (7-3, 3-3 Big Ten).
Ricky Stanzi was 23-of-41 for 270 yards with two touchdowns for Iowa (7-3, 4-2), which avoided an upset last week on the road against Indiana, needing a late touchdown drive and a dropped ball in the end zone by the Hoosiers' Damarlo Belcher in the final minute to escape. The Hawkeyes weren't so lucky on Saturday.
After struggling to move the ball in the first half, Stanzi orchestrated a pair of scoring drives in the third quarter, throwing a pair of touchdown passes to two different receivers.
Iowa grabbed the lead as Stanzi capped the Hawkeyes' opening possession of the second half by finding Marvin McNutt in the end zone from five yards out. After the Wildcats were forced to punt, Stanzi hit a streaking Derrell Johnson-Koulianos on a post route in stride for a 70-yard TD catch, putting the visitors up 17-7 with 6:01 to play in the third.
Northwestern safety Brian Peters intercepted Stanzi in the fourth quarter, setting the Wildcats up at their own 15-yard line. Persa led the team down the field and capped a 13-play drive with a six-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Ebert with 6:21 remaining.
The Hawkeyes punted the ball away, and Persa covered 91 yards in 11 plays, converting a triumvirate of third downs along the way before Fields' reception gave Northwestern the lead.
Iowa then drove into Northwestern territory, but Stanzi's desperation heave to the end zone on fourth down hit the turf, sealing the win for the Wildcats.
Persa's two-yard touchdown run accounted for all the scoring in the first quarter. Northwestern had a chance to extend its lead in the second quarter, but Stefan Demos missed a 40-yard field goal.
Iowa managed to get on the board late in the half as Mike Meyer made a 32-yard field goal with 24 seconds remaining.