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IOWA CITY — Mike Riley didn't pull any punches in his postgame remarks after Iowa bullied No. 16 Nebraska to a 40-10 win on Senior Night at Kinnick Stadium.
Riley isn't a fire-and-brimstone kind of guy, so don't get that idea. But there was no sugarcoating a performance that finishes what once was a promising-looking regular season with a whimper. Iowa controlled the line of scrimmage, frustrated a still-hobbled Tommy Armstrong and left the Huskers' head coach shrugging his shoulders in bewilderment of how it went as wrong as it did.
'It all kind of failed today. It was really disappointing on every level,' Riley said. 'We had our chances, and certainly could've done better offensively. It's almost a shame I ever talked about how explosive plays affect games, because it was just the opposite of what we needed to do to win this game. We gave up big plays. We didn't sustain anything.
'A lot of stuff we had been decent at didn't look great. I'm really disappointed all the way around in all of us, in all the parts.'
Iowa caught Nebraska on three explosive plays, and two more chunk plays overall on offense — two of which went for touchdowns of 75 yards or more, and the other a 56-yard run that set up a touchdown.
On the 77-yard touchdown pass from C.J. Beathard to Riley McCarron, the Nebraska defenders were left with just one player to chase the wide receiver down the right sideline, as he broke free of the Husker covering him. On the 75-yard touchdown run from Akrum Wadley, the junior running back made two hard cuts, the second of which left Nebraska linebacker Josh Banderas flailing and on the turf, grabbing nothing but air. On the 56-yard rush from LeShun Daniels, the Iowa offensive line created a gap for the senior running back to hit, and when he did, only Nebraska safety Nathan Gerry running him down saved a touchdown.
Those plays, and a few others, left a pretty obvious — if not incredibly frustrating — explanation from Riley.
'We lost leverage on the football badly. In other words, we overran it,' Riley said. 'At least two guys on the second long run ran past the ball. A guy cuts back and there's nobody there. So it obviously has to do with keeping the ball in front of you with leverage so you can make a play and not allow the cutback. Then, obviously, from there it has to do with pursuit angles from everybody else. But there looked like there was nobody left. We got cut off, cut back, lost leverage and it was three big plays.'
Gerry saw that too, but put it more on what Nebraska didn't do than what the Hawkeyes did.
The senior safety said 'by no means were they as good as the score. I don't think they were 40 points better, 30 points better or whatever the hell the score was. But we lost.'
Iowa exploited open gaps all game long to the tune of 264 rushing yards.
On the flip side, the Hawkeyes' defense pressured Armstrong, and never allowed the Huskers to find a rhythm running the ball. Armstrong played despite a still-injured hamstring that he thought was good to go before the game.
He found out pretty quickly it wasn't.
'As we got into the game, we started doing more and more, and I think my leg started giving out on me,' Armstrong said. 'I got hit that first time and it was a reality check that, 'Oh man, this might be a long game.' I did as much as I could when I had to run, here and there. I got what I could. With a hamstring, it's just so iffy when it comes to playing, being out there and not knowing exactly how much you can do.'
Riley didn't pin all of Nebraska's offensive woes on Armstrong's limitations, saying 'we certainly can't come close to using that as a reason or an excuse.'
He said this week last year's game left them with a direction in which they believed they wanted to go. What'd they learn this year? Well, the entire answer to that is to be determined.
'We certainly got beat in most, all phases tonight, so we'll have to take it back and look at it and see how we can improve,' Riley said. 'Well, we certainly didn't look like (we were prepared). All we can do is go by what was absolutely tangible and we got beat in all the phases of the game. We're all responsible for that.'
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