3 Thoughts From Nebraska's 27-24 Loss to Iowa
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

3 Thoughts From Nebraska’s 27-24 Loss to Iowa

November 29, 2019

Iowa beat Nebraska on (what was basically) a walk-off field goal for the second year in a row. This time, the Hawkeyes connected from 47 yards out with just one second remaining to beat Nebraska 27-24. 

Iowa gets to 9-3 on the year with the win, its fifth straight in this series. Nebraska ends the year 5-7. 

Here are three thoughts from the game.

Third Straight 

No bowl game for the Huskers. It’s the third year in a row Nebraska has missed the postseason fun. It’s rather unacceptable for a program of this caliber. 

Miss me with the “Nebraska needs to accept its lot in life” talk that I heard sporadically throughout the press box Friday morning from visiting media. It’s a crock. This program, with this donor base and these facilities and this coaching staff and this brand recognition shouldn’t ever throw its hands in the air and say, “Well we had a nice run before recruiting changed.”

Nebraska doesn’t get recruits because Nebraska hasn’t been any good. My brother, born in 2000, hasn’t known a Nebraska program that was worth a damn. And he’s a couple years older than kids currently being recruited. And Nebraska not being good lately has resulted in missed bowl games. 

Missing out on the extra 15 bowl practices sucks, but this is about program image at this point. Three straight missed bowls is something that can’t happen. 

It’s something Illinois does. It’s something Maryland does. It should not be something Nebraska does, and it can’t just be written off because there were rebuild complications this coaching staff wasn’t prepared for or because the last staff left the cupboard either bare or contaminated. 

Nebraska had enough to beat Purdue. It had enough to beat Indiana. It had enough to beat Colorado. It frankly has enough to beat an Iowa team that isn’t much. The Hawkeye quarterback can’t throw the ball—evidenced by four straight seasons of a sub-60% completion clip or a day in Lincoln that saw him complete 11-of-24 throws for 99 yards and an interception (take your pick)—and coming into the day he wasn’t getting help from the ground game. 

Nebraska had all week to think about being one win away—at home—from going to a bowl game and all week to watch tape of a Hawkeye group that entered the day tied for 103rd nationally in rushing yards per play. They came out and gave up first-quarter touchdown runs of 45 and 55 yards to a team that had one 40-yard run all year. 

The offense couldn’t block a soul. Special teams gave up another kickoff return for a touchdown immediately after a Nebraska pick-six cut a 14-point margin in half. 

In the fourth quarter, Nebraska got the ball back with four minutes and change trying to drive and opened the possession with a false start. The Huskers punted away after three plays lost seven yards.

With a second chance, thanks to the defense, Nebraska again shot itself in the foot with a block-in-the-back penalty on a 4-yard run on second down. Quarterback Adrian Martinez then ran out of bounds on the next play and the Huskers punted away. Don’t run out of bounds and the Huskers could have killed the clock.

Stupid mistakes killing things.

Scott Frost will have time on his hands again this Christmas. 

That shouldn’t be the case.

Gut Check from the Blackshirts

Nebraska was down 24-10, but it had the ball on what would be the final possession of the first half and it was going to get the ball to begin the second half. Find a way to punch it in and the sour taste of that first quarter vanishes. 

Instead, quarterback Adrian Martinez let one over the middle hang a little too much instead of leading tight end Jack Stoll into the end zone and an Iowa defender undercut the throw. Iowa kneeled on it to go into the half up two scores in enemy territory. 

It was not a good-looking first half from the Huskers. 

They gave up 45- and 55-yard first-quarter touchdown runs to an Iowa team that had one 40-yard gain all season and allowed 163 rushing yards to a team that hadn’t run for more than 125 in a full game since nonconference play. The NU offense ran 14 first-down plays that gained a total of 10 yards. 

A quick, short poll in the press box said the 14-point deficit felt larger than it was. The Huskers had a pick-six in the second quarter; the offense had 3 points to its name. Nebraska needed a strong third quarter and a strong start. Nebraska. A team that doesn’t start well in the third quarter. 

Iowa got 7 yards in the third quarter. 

Nebraska tied the game at 24-all on a 9-yard run from senior tailback Wyatt Mazour. It was the highlight on a frame that saw the Huskers run 28 plays to Iowa’s 9. 

In my three years here so far, I had yet to see a game of substance, a game with any real stakes on the line, tight heading into the fourth quarter at Memorial Stadium. With AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” blasting through the stadium speakers and lights flashing throughout the stands, I finally got that. Thanks to the defense.

Nebraska needed to show fight against an Iowa team that whipped tail in the first half and the Husker defense didn’t just do that, they took out their own belt and went right back at the Hawkeyes.

It’s been a season of the defense carrying what was supposed to be a premier offense. Defensive coordinator Erik Chinander has been on the receiving end of criticism all year long and his defense Friday gave up 20 points. That side of the ball kept Nebraska in it all game long. For the entire second half, Iowa got just 122 yards and and turned it over twice. 

Did the Blackshirts need a stop on the final drive that set up a game-winning field goal? Yes. But 27 points shouldn’t be enough to beat Nebraska when Nebraska is supposed to have the offense promised.

Too Cute

About that.

Nebraska was too cute on offense. 

Swing passes left and right when inside zone is the play that sets the table for the rest of the scheme? 

Perimeter blocking is in shambles. Between-the-tackles blocking regressed. Decision-making at the quarterback spot has been abysmal all year. 

Nebraska tried to attack Iowa vertically, what, a handful of times? Is that even too generous? And one of those went for a 39-yard touchdown.

The power brokers of the Nebraska offense—be it the quarterback, the coordinator, and the coach—are going to lament over this one all offseason. 

They should.

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