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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell started to say “it’s just another game” after Iowa’s 24-17 loss to Nebraska on Friday.
But it was not just another game. It was his final football game at Kinnick Stadium, and it was a loss to a rival.
“When you walk off that field the last time,” Campbell said as he choked up. “Everything that this program has done for me and the guys in that locker room — it means a lot. And It hurts a little bit.”
Add on that Iowa is not going to the Big Ten championship game, and Campbell said it was a “difficult pill to swallow.”
Here are a couple observations after re-watching the film from Iowa’s first loss to Nebraska since 2014:
Some bright spots, but also some head-scratching gaffes on offensive line
Kirk Ferentz spoke optimistically about his offensive line after the 24-17 loss.
“I didn’t think the line did a bad job, quite frankly,” Ferentz said.
There were some bright spots for the position group, namely run blocking. Iowa’s running backs often had enough space to make plays.
Excluding sacks, Iowa’s rushing attack averaged 5.4 yards per carry. Iowa’s running back trio combined to take 26 carries; only four of those carries resulted in a loss of yardage.
But there also were some errors that one would not expect from a Ferentz-coached offensive line.
On a third-and-4 in the second quarter, Nebraska had a four-man rush. Quarterback Alex Padilla theoretically should have had at least some time to throw the ball. But theoretically, all four Nebraska pass rushers would have been blocked, and that did not happen.
Nebraska’s Caleb Tannor was lined up on the edge across from Iowa right tackle Jack Plumb. He was the only rusher lined up to the right side of the center in what appeared to be an effort to overwhelm the left side of Iowa’s offensive line.
It was not the left side of the line Padilla had to worry about, though.
Plumb did not even try to block Tannor. He turned to block to the left even though there was no one on the inside for him to block while Tannor had a clear path to sack Padilla.
“I don’t know what the right tackle is doing here,” Big Ten Network color commentator Jake Butt said on the broadcast. “This is your edge rusher. This is your guy all the way through, and where are you looking? … I can’t for the life of me think what he was thinking on that play. Sorry Padilla, you got no shot.”
Iowa center Logan Jones was called for a false start in the fourth quarter. It was the first false start by an Iowa center since 2019.
The Hawkeyes did not allow any fourth-quarter sacks, but the pass protection was far from ideal in the late stages of the game. Padilla was often scrambling to buy more time, throwing it away, rushing throws or doing a combination of those things.
Padilla attempted 23 passes in the fourth quarter, and Nebraska’s pressure impacted almost half of those attempts.
While it was a significant factor in Padilla going 9-of-23 in the final quarter, it was not the only factor.
Padilla nearly threw two interceptions to Nebraska’s Quinton Newsome late in the quarter before throwing a game-ending interception in the final minute to Chris Kolarevic. All three attempts were with relatively clean pockets.
Valuable time lost during comeback attempt
Iowa missed out on what could have been valuable time in the fourth quarter because of some factors under Iowa’s control and some outside of Iowa’s control.
A penalty on Iowa’s punt return unit for jumping over the shield was the most obvious play that cost the Hawkeyes precious time. The penalty in the fourth quarter extended a Nebraska drive for another three minutes and 11 seconds.
Iowa also burned a timeout after the penalty. While it may have helped Ferentz hear an explanation from the officiating crew, the timeout did not help Iowa’s clock management situation.
The clock already was stopped when Iowa called the timeout, so it did not save any time. That timeout could have saved 39 seconds later in the quarter.
The three minutes and 11 seconds wasted because of the penalty were more like three minutes and 50 seconds.
When Iowa went on a nine-play, 90-yard drive that ended with a Luke Lachey touchdown reception, the Hawkeyes again missed a few opportunities to save more clock.
Despite trailing by 17 at the time, Iowa let more than 20 seconds tick off the clock before either the snap or, in one case, a false start penalty on three occasions.
Had Iowa snapped the ball 10 seconds earlier on those three plays, the 30 seconds saved could have been helpful.
The officiating crew’s initial ruling later in the quarter that Nebraska’s Rahmir Johnson held onto the ball and did not fumble also cost Iowa some time. The replay review eventually overturned the call, but 38 seconds ticked off the clock until the review.
Between the penalty for leaping over the shield, Iowa’s lack of urgency down 17 points and the officiating crew not initially ruling a fumble as a fumble, the Hawkeyes essentially lost five minutes of game time.
There is no guarantee those five minutes would have changed the outcome of Friday’s game, but it certainly would have been helpful for Iowa to have.
Running back Kaleb Johnson did not have any touches in the fourth quarter despite averaging 6.8 yards per carry in the first three quarters. Another five minutes could have given Iowa the flexibility to turn to its standout running back at least a few times while trailing by a touchdown.