Nebraska took a second-half lead over Iowa Saturday for the first time in a game between the two cross-state rivals since 2014. The Huskers had momentum.
With a touchdown drive led by junior quarterback Adrian Martinez that tied things at 13-all with 29 seconds to play in the second quarter and the ball coming back its way to begin the third, Nebraska had a rare opportunity to get one of those double-dip opportunities in the middle-eight portion of the game. Iowa took the ball to start.
Martinez led an eight-play, 70-yard drive to open the third quarter that was as effective as any second-half possession the Huskers have had all year. Nebraska capped it with a 12-yard score on the ground from redshirt freshman Rahmir Johnson. NU had a 20-13 lead. It would be the last score of the game for Big Red.
Iowa did what Iowa has been known to do. It stiffened up, and ground out a win. A third-year for Nebraska coach Scott Frost in this rivalry, and a third one-possession loss. Iowa (4-2) picked up its sixth straight win in the series with a 26-20 win over the Cornhuskers (1-4).
Only once on the day did Iowa have consecutive possessions that ended in points. Four of the Hawkeyes’ six scoring drives ended in field goals. Nebraska’s defense did its job more often than not.
For the day, Iowa only ran for 137 yards on 44 attempts (adjusted for sacks). The 3.1 yards per carry average was by far the best run-stopping showing of the Frost era against Iowa. And the defense forced a turnover.
On a third-and-3 with just over two minutes to play in the game, Nebraska’s defense again held up. Senior safety Marquel Dismuke came up in run support to blow up a Tyler Goodson carry. Iowa tried a 51-yard field goal and the hero from a year ago—kicker Keith Duncan—came up short this time around, literally. His attempt bounced off the crossbar and fell harmlessly to the turf.
Nebraska had a chance to drive for a score with 2:02 to play.
A pass to Austin Allen for 5 yards, then a run by Martinez for 6, then a throw to Wan’Dale Robinson for 18 had Nebraska in business. The Huskers had reached the Iowa 39 with still roughly 90 seconds to play with.
Then Chauncy Golston, a senior Iowa defensive lineman, blew right past senior Husker right guard Matt Farniok, got a paw on Martinez’s arm as he was throwing, and knocked the ball into a teammate’s hands.
After three quarters of turnover-free football, Nebraska had two in the fourth quarter.
Iowa kneeled on the ball to close out the game.
Martinez finished 18-for-20 throwing the ball with 174 yards. He had 12 carries for 28 yards on the ground. Luke McCaffrey, who played sparingly throughout the game, was 3-for-5 throwing it for 21 yards. He added 42 on the ground.
Nebraska out-gained Iowa as a team 338-322 and won the efficiency battle—5.4 yards per play to 4.3.
But Nebraska lost the turnover battle and its offensive line was a problem area all day. The Hawkeyes ended with seven tackles for loss and three sacks.
The Huskers will look to rebound next Saturday against Purdue on the road. The game with be televised on BTN, but a kickoff time has not yet been set.
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.