Iowa Football

Iowa vs. Nebraska Game Report: Grades, numbers, notes, injuries and more

Pair of 22-yard Nate Stanley passes set up Keith Duncan's game-winner

Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley (4) throws a pass against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., Friday. (Bruce Thorson/USA TODAY Sports)
Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley (4) throws a pass against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., Friday. (Bruce Thorson/USA TODAY Sports)

LINCOLN, Neb. A closer look at No. 17 Iowa’s 27-24 win over Nebraska on Friday.

Play(s) of the Game

THE SETUP: First of all, it would be easy to give this to Ihmir Smith-Marsette for his 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that was an immediate second-quarter answer to Nebraska’s Cam Taylor-Britt for his 38-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Secondly, this is a Play of the Game, not Plays of the Game.

But how do you separate twins? Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley had a pair of long completions for identical yardage after the Hawkeyes got the ball at their 26 with 32 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the game tied at 24.

WHAT HAPPENED: A beautiful first-down throw downfield to Nico Ragaini was ruled a 38-yard catch at first. Then came a video review, and an overturn. Which was followed by a more-decisive incompletion, and it was third-and-10.

Instead of running the ball and running out the last 19 seconds, Stanley threw a 22-yard pass to Smith-Marsette, then fired a 22-yarder to tight end Sam LaPorta. Suddenly, the Hawkeyes were at the Nebraska 30 with seven seconds left. Stanley spiked the ball twice to eat four seconds, then handed the reins to Iowa kicker Keith Duncan.

THE RESULT: Duncan waited out a pair of Huskers timeouts, then sent his 48-yard kick straight and true with one second left. It wasn’t a walk-off like Miguel Recinos’ 41-yarder was in Iowa’s 31-28 home win over Nebraska in Iowa City last year, but the Hawkeyes walked off victorious all the same.

 

Grades

Marc Morehouse: A-

Yes, I Googled the lyrics to Hall and Oates’ “Kiss on My List” for Keith Duncan’s celebration, but I just couldn’t make it work.

Mike Hlas: A-

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Like Maryland and Rutgers, Nebraska joined the Big Ten this decade. Since then, all have mastered the ability to leave no footprints in football.

By the Numbers

3 — Counting its punter, three Nebraska starters were Nebraskans. The other two were offensive linemen.

3 — Three different Huskers threw incompletions on Nebraska’s second possession.

4 — Iowa won its fourth straight game at Nebraska.

5 — The Hawkeyes have won five straight games against the Huskers for the first time in the 50-game series.

16 — Iowa has held its last 16 opponents under 30 points.

27 — The Hawkeyes scored 27 points for the first time in their last eight games.

71 — A Lincoln Journal Star poll asked people who would win this game. Nebraska was the pick of 71 percent of the voters.

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97 — Kirk Ferentz’s 97th Big Ten win made him Iowa’s all-time leader.

152 — Iowa had 152 rushing yards in the first quarter, topping the entirety of its rushing yardage in eight other games. It finished with 225.

376 — This was Nebraska’s 376th-consecutive home sellout. Far from every ticket was used Friday. The weather was lousy. Husker fans are rabid, but everyone has limits.

8,000 — Stanley topped the 8,000-yard passing mark. He is at 8,089.

Notes

Iowa junior defensive end A.J. Epenesa gave an All-Big Ten, All-America, All-Ready-for-the-NFL performance. His 14 tackles were the most by a Hawkeye in a game this season, and many weren’t of the garden variety. Five were for losses, and two were quarterback sacks, giving him nine this season.

Epenesa had a slow start to this season statistically, but he was never anything resembling ineffective. His play the last few weeks was everything everyone expected when he was everybody’s preseason All-American.

“I was having success (in this game) and I was just around the ball all the time,” Epenesa said.

Ferentz said he was “like Santa Claus” in the Iowa dressing room after the game.

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What that means is he told walk-ons Duncan, offensive guard Kyler Schott and free safety Jack Koerner that they are getting placed on scholarship.

None is a surprise, since Duncan has a school-record 29 field goals this season, and the other two have a combined 15 starts this year.

“Coach came up to me and told me I wouldn’t need to be paying bills in January anymore,” said Koerner, who had an interception late in the first half after Nebraska had reached the Iowa 31, and had 11 tackles.

“Indescribable.”

The lone bowl representatives at this game were from the Citrus Bowl. Does that mean anything? Well, yes, a little. But not much.

The Big Ten champion will get a College Football Playoff berth unless Ohio State does a pratfall between now and Dec. 8. Another Big Ten team will head to the Rose Bowl.

If a third Big Ten team goes to a New Year’s Six bowl, maybe the Citrus Bowl takes Iowa instead of … aw, let this stuff figure itself out and enjoy Saturday’s games. Or enjoy something else.

Injury Report

Iowa starting running back Tyler Goodson was injured and hobbled off the field late in the third quarter. He didn’t return to the game after carrying 13 times for 116 yards and a touchdown. Ferentz said Goodson is fine, and the next game isn’t for another month or so.

Iowa’s worst game-related injury, Ferentz said, was backup defensive back John Milani spraining an ankle in the postgame celebration.

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Hawkeye wide receiver Brandon Smith missed his fourth-straight game because of a knee injury.

Up next

Iowa will play someone, somewhere, at a site to be determined. Bowl pairings will be announced Dec. 8. A distinct possibility would seem to be the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl in San Diego against a Pacific-12 Conference team (USC?), but we’ve been fooled before on the bowl-selection day. Like last year, and the year before, and …

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