IOWA CITY, Iowa — Senior running back Devine Ozigbo didn’t hesitate. He had just been asked about how close Nebraska was to winning in the 31-28 loss to Iowa, and what the Huskers need to do to close that gap going forward.
“Get the ball back one more time,” Ozigbo said.
There are plenty of moments Nebraska can — and no doubtedly will — evaluate from the loss to Iowa. However, it all came down to a fourth-and-8 situation from Nebraska’s 37-yard line with 42 seconds left on the clock. The score was tied, 28-28.
Then Iowa made one more play. It was a crucial one, too.
“If we get it back . . . I think we just ran out of time and it’s unfortunate,” Ozigbo said. “It’s the worst way for it to end but that’s the way the game goes.”
That ending, as Ozigbo mentioned, came down to Iowa converting the fourth down over the middle to tight end TJ Hockenson. That allowed the Hawkeyes to run enough time off the clock and kick the game-winning field goal from 40 yards out. Time expired. Nebraska lost 31-28 in a steady rain.
Before that converted fourth down even happened, Frost thought Iowa might punt. He couldn’t blame the Hawkeyes for going for it, though.
"That's a gutsy decision by them,” Frost said. “I give Coach [Kirk] Ferentz credit. If they gave us the ball back right there with 40 seconds left, I liked our chances of hitting a couple of plays and giving us the opportunity for a field goal. They rolled the dice there, and I think we had the right defense on.
“We gave a little too much ground in one spot. It was a great play by them."
And a great play that could have been negated by one more play from Nebraska. It was right there, waiting for the Huskers to take it.
“We were supposed to win that game,” junior inside linebacker Mohamed Barry said. “You’ve got to make those big time plays in the critical times and critical moments. Some plays weren’t made and should’ve been made.
“Those kind of plays have to be made next year.”
Those kind of plays contributed in part to Nebraska losing five games this season by one possession: Colorado (33-28), Troy (24-19), Northwestern (34-31 in overtime), Ohio State (36-31) and now Iowa (31-28).
Quarterback Adrian Martinez isn’t a fan of moral victories, but those losses say something to him. Nebraska was right there so many times, with the win in reach. If only there was just one more play for the Huskers.
“I think that’s college football, the margin of error is so small and that’s the difference between average and good teams,” Martinez said. “Obviously toward the end of the year, we got a lot better and excuting the way we needed to.
“We’re this close. Plays here or there that really make a difference in a lot of those ball games.”
Nebraska will have all offseason to think about those plays, the “critical plays” as Barry calls them. He hopes the pain of missing those plays — and ultimately more wins, a bowl game and a different outcome for the seniors — motivates those returning to get the issues fixed.
The Huskers have potential. They just have to figure out how to make one more play, especially when it’s needed most.
“A lot of lessons learned from this season but a lot of lessons that can make us a great team,” Barry said. “We’re one play away from being a great team.”
Erin is the Deputy Editor and Digital Marketing Strategist for Hail Varsity. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report, Cox Media Group’s Land of 10, and even Hail Varsity (previously from 2012-2017). She has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET’s Big Red Wrap-Up, and a varsity of radio shows nationwide. When not covering the Huskers, Erin is probably at Chipotle.