LINCOLN, Neb. – Black Friday turned into black-and-blue Friday for the Hawkeyes, who were pushed, shoved and left broken in the first-ever Heroes Game at Memorial Stadium.
No. 22 Nebraska beat Iowa 20-7 in the inaugural game as Big Ten rivals.
“It was a Big Ten football game; physical on both sides of the ball,” senior linebacker Tyler Nielsen said. “They came out and beat us today. We didn’t stop the run like we needed to.”
Nebraska (9-3, 5-3) plowed over the Iowa defense for 222 rushing yards. That included 160 yards from junior Rex Burkhead on a Husker record 38 carries.
“The thing about Burkhead, he hit the hole no matter what and was heading north and south,” senior cornerback Shaun Prater said. “If there was hole that was open out there, he was in it.”
It was Burkhead’s seventh 100-yard game of the season. He did it without a run of longer than 14 yards.
“He’s just a good running back,” sophomore linebacker James Morris said. “He runs with good pad level. He’s strong. He protects the football. All that stuff. Boom, boom, boom. You can go down the list.”
The Iowa (7-5, 4-4) offense could not get going. The Hawkeyes never drove deeper than the Nebraska 36 until a late fourth quarter touchdown.
Coker had a touchdown with 3:26 to play and the Hawkeyes avoided being shut out for the first time since 2000 (143 games).
“They are a great team and they had a great plan,” senior receiver Marvin McNutt said. “And we didn’t execute at times when we really needed to.”
The Huskers weren’t flashy – both teams averaged 4.6 yards per play offensively – but Nebraska ran 83 plays to 59 for Iowa and won time of possession 37:47 to 22:13.
“That was a group of warriors today,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said of his team. “We’re a beat up football team. I think they showed a lot of character.”
The Hawkeye offense played out of character. Junior quarterback James Vandenberg struggled, hitting just 16-of-35 for 182 yards.
“To me, the story today was we didn’t pass the ball effectively,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Record-setting senior receiver Marvin McNutt was held to just four catches for 29 yards. He had five straight 100-yard receiving games coming in.
His previous low was against Iowa State when he had just 61 yards on four catches.
“One of those shoulda, coulda, woulda things,” McNutt said. “You wish it would’ve happened, but you didn’t get it done.”
Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard blanked McNutt most of the afternoon and was often helped with frequent double-teams.
“I’m a competitive guy so I wanted to go against the best every single time,” Dennard said. “When they told me I was going to go against McNutt the whole game, I just said I’m up for the challenge.”
Both teams struggled to him a rhythm early, but Nebraska put together a 15-play, 8-0-yard drive just before half to go into the lockerroom up 10-0.
“We were pretty excited after Purdue. We got punched in the face a little. Kudos to them. We weren’t ready to go,” Morris said. “It felt like a physical game, and I felt like they out-physicaled us a little. That’s a failure on our part.”
The Iowa defense gave up a 12-play, 82-yard drive in the third quarter, but forced the Huskers to settle for a field goal.
Up 13-0, Nebraska put the game away with a 10-play, 80-yard drive at the start of the fourth quarter. It ended with a Burkhead 2-yard touchdown.
“We had some opportunities on each of those drives to get off the field and we just didn’t do it,” Nielsen said.
Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez had a season-low 20 rushing yards on four carries and was 12-for-22 passing for 163 yards.
But the Huskers converted 10-of-21 on third down.
“That was part of their defensive effort, keeping us off the field in six minutes drives,” Ferentz said.
Iowa did run the ball effectively, with sophomore Marcus Coker finishing with 87 yards on 18 carries. But Iowa was just 2-of-12 on third down conversions.
“We wanted to make it a physical game and we did, we just didn’t finish,” senior offensive guard Adam Gettis said. “We left a lot of plays out there. One or two guys mess up here or there. Pick out 10, 11 plays we could’ve busted some good ones. We just didn’t get it done.”
Nebraska claimed the Heroes Trophy for the first time, leaving the Iowa football complex with four empty rivalry trophy cases.
“This is a tough loss, a big game,” Vandenberg said. “That’s a good team, but we didn’t play our best, and when you don’t play your best you don’t give yourself a chance.”
The win likely lifts the Huskers into the Outback Bowl. Both teams will have to wait until Dec. 4 to find out.
“This is gut-wrenching, heart-breaking but its not over,” senior defensive tackle Mike Daniels said. “We have another one left. We’ll work hard this month so we can get the next one.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football