EVENSTON, Ill. — After completing a short pass, quarterback Clayton Thorson saw two defenders approaching running back Justin Jackson and thought it was a mismatch — against the defense.

Jackson’s 23-yard reception on third-and-9 set up Thorson’s 1-yard touchdown run as Northwestern rallied from a sluggish first half for a 17-10 overtime victory over Iowa on Saturday.

“I saw two guys in the open field and I’m like, ‘Oh, they’ve got no chance,’ so I knew at that point we were getting the first down,” Thorson said. “And then, when we he kept pushing forward, ‘I’m like holy cow, we’re gonna score.'”

Jackson broke tackles and fell 1 yard short of the end zone.

“Man, tired legs,” he said jokingly. “Saw the end zone, it was right there. So close.”

Said coach Pat Fitzgerald: “A great player making a big-time play.”

Following Northwestern’s score, Iowa moved the ball to the 18-yard line, but Nate Stanley’s pass for Noah Fant on a fourth-and-3 play fell incomplete, ending the game.

“Can’t take my eyes off the ball and have to keep working so it won’t happen again,” said Fant, who had a 7-yard TD reception in the first half.

Thorson finished 21 of 36 for 192 yards. Jackson rushed for 93 yards rushing on 25 attempts and had five receptions for 38 yards. Jackson now has 4,732 career yards to pass Anthony Davis (Wisconsin) for eighth place on the Big Ten’s all-time rushing list.

Stanley was 19 of 33 for 223 yards with a touchdown and an interception and Akrum Wadley rushed for 90 yards on 26 carries to lead Iowa (4-3, 1-3).

“We just didn’t execute the way we did in the first half,” Stanley said. “We came out and made some mistakes we didn’t make in the first half.”

Iowa, which averaged 138.7 yards rushing before Saturday, was held to 89 yards.

“We’re a better team when we can run the ball efficiently,” coach Kirk Ferentz. “It’s always been that way. That is our plan, that’ll continue to be our plan. We’ll try to do a better job there.”

The Hawkeyes tied the score at 10 on kicker Miguel Recinos’ 48-yard field goal with 1:30 remaining in regulation. Iowa won the coin toss before overtime and decided to play defense first.

Northwestern, which trailed 7-0 at the half, tied the score on a 6-yard run by Jeremy Larkin in the third quarter and took a 10-7 lead midway through the fourth on a 30-yard field goal by Charlie Kuhbander.

“I thought today was just a great Big Ten defensive battle,” Fitzgerald said. “I think two really good defenses, two really physical football teams just went toe-to-toe.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Iowa: Middle linebacker Josey Jewell – the conference leader in tackles entering the weekend with 70 – didn’t play because of a shoulder injury. Free safety Brandon Snyder (knee) also was held out. The Hawkeyes thrived on defense early in spite of the losses, but seemed to tire late.

“I think we kind of wore them down with our tempo,” Jackson said. “They don’t play too many guys.”

Northwestern: The Wildcats were shut out in the first half and then went three-and-out – losing 5 yards in the process – on the first offensive possession of the second half. But the game’s momentum may have swung when NU punter Hunter Niswander got off an 80-yard punt to pin Iowa back to its 3-yard line. The Hawkeyes had to punt after five plays. The Wildcats then put together 12-play, 66-yard touchdown to tie the score at 7.

“That was just another piece of the momentum shifting our way,” Thorson said. “A huge punt.”

UP NEXT

Iowa: The Hawkeyes host Minnesota on Saturday.

Northwestern: The Wildcats host Michigan State on Saturday.