IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa made one more play.
It came down to fourth-and-8 from Nebraska’s 37-yard-line with 42 seconds left, the score tied at 28-28.
Iowa converted over the middle to tight end TJ Hockenson. The Hawkeyes (8-4, 5-4 Big Ten) were able to run off clock and kick the game-winning field goal from 40 yards away as time expired to down the Huskers (4-8, 3-6 Big Ten), 31-28.
Everything changed when Iowa took a third-and-2 from the Nebraska 3-yard-line and dropped back to pass.
Iowa dominated Nebraska on the ground. The Hawkeyes ran up 266 yards on the ground on the Huskers, led by Mekhi Sargent’s 173-yard day. Yet up 28-13 late in the third and driving to put things seemingly out of reach, Iowa went play-action pass on third down and then faked a field goal on fourth down after the pass fell incomplete.
All from inside Nebraska’s 5-yard-line.
Nebraska’s defense held and Iowa gave the ball back without doing any damage. The Huskers then went 98 yards on 14 plays and capped it with a 28-yard touchdown from quarterback Adrian Martinez to running back Maurice Washington.
It made it an eight-point game, but more importantly, it was a shot of adrenaline into Nebraska’s sideline on a dreary day.
Nebraska’s defense woke up (a missed field goal from Iowa late in the fourth after a Martinez interception helped) and the offense caught a little magic.
After a touchdown on the Hawkeyes’ first drive of the second half, Nebraska held them scoreless. On the other side, Adrian Martinez made big play after big play, capped by a 3-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion to wideout Kade Warner in the back of the end zone to tie the game at 28.
Martinez went for 260 yards passing (26-for-38), 76 yards rushing, three scores and an interception.
The defense just couldn’t get a stop.
Entering the day, Iowa's ground game ranked among the country's worst in efficiency and explosiveness. Sargent had gone over 75 yards twice on the year. He had his career day with a 7.1 yards per carry average. Nebraska couldn’t get off the field when it needed to.
Yards per play and yardage counts were similar for Nebraska and Iowa, but the Hawkeyes controlled the ball and the clock. Nebraska had the ball once in the entire first quarter and only three times total in the first half.
Nebraska’s season ends with the same record as 2017 — though the mood of the team feels different within that record — and the same end result.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.