Photo Credit: Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com

Play of the Game: Iowa’s Game-Sealing Sack

November 27, 2020

For the third straight year, Nebraska’s Black Friday matchup went down to the wire, and for the this straight year, the Hawkeyes made the game-sealing play.

This week’s Play of the Game is Iowa’s sack and forced fumble with less than 90 seconds to play.

Trailing 26-20, Nebraska held Iowa to a 51-yard field goal attempt that Keith Duncan missed, giving the Huskers one last chance with 2:02 remaining.

Nebraska moved the ball early with a 5-yard completion to Austin Allen, a 6-yard run by Adrian Martinez and an incredible 18-yard reception by Wan’Dale Robinson that moved Nebraska into Iowa territory.

With the clock ready to run as soon as the crew moved the chains, Nebraska hurried to get the next snap off on first-and-10 from the Iowa 39. Then, disaster.

 

Nebraska lined up with two receivers to the left, one to the right, a tight end on the right tackle’s hip and a running back in the backfield next to Martinez.

The quarterback dropped back and began going through his progressions, starting on the left side of the field. The left defensive tackle, Chauncey Golston, badly beat right guard Matt Farniok and was on Martinez before he got a chance to release the ball.

The right defensive end, Zach VanValkenburg separated from left tackle Brenden Jaimes and dove on the ball, securing it for Iowa. The Hawkeyes took a knee three times and ran out the clock, sealing their sixth straight win over the Huskers.

“Last play, I was going through my progression and I was about to throw the ball down to a shallow and I lost the ball,” Martinez said.

Farniok is a two-year team captain. The coaches moved him to the interior this year where they thought he was a better fit than trying to slow down speedy edge rushers at tackle. But he got soundly beat on the biggest play of the game and it cost Nebraska dearly.

“I know Matt’s hurting, just looking at him in the locker room, because of what happened to him on the last play, but I love him,” Scott Frost said. “He’s fought though a lot at Nebraska and plays his tail off for us. He’s a really good player and a really good person.”

Despite the rotation at quarterback, the wild snaps in the first half and some difficulty separating down field for the wide receivers, Adrian Martinez put together a pretty solid game overall (18-of-20 passing for 174 yards plus 28 yards rushing including a touchdown). He’ll be credited with the game-sealing turnover, but there wasn’t much else he could have done.

Friday’s game ebbed and flowed with the performance of the offensive line. The disastrous snaps derailed multiple drives, and a couple of drives went nowhere with missed blocks and tackles for loss. But Martinez also had a lot of time in the pocket to scan the field for long stretches of the game, and Wan’Dale Robinson and Rahmir Johnson both had success running the ball.

Unfortunately, the game ebbed when Nebraska could least afford it, and it was one of the team’s senior captains who couldn’t make a play.

That’s why Iowa’s late sack and forced fumble is this week’s Play of the Game.

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