LINCOLN, Neb., — The call was a “rebel.” Safety Miles Taylor blitzed through the B gap and middle linebacker Josey Jewell blew through the A.
That’s what Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong saw. He saw Taylor’s arms and No. 19 rise toward his facemask. What Armstrong didn’t see was defensive end Parker Hesse.
Armstrong lofted a pass toward the left flat, Hesse tipped it with his right hand, gathered it and walked into the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown. This silenced the 90,830 fans inside Memorial Stadium and gave the Hawkeyes a lead they wouldn’t relinquish in Friday’s 28-20 victory over the Huskers.
“I didn’t have to run that far, so I didn’t have the ball that long,” the redshirt freshman said. “I’m thankful for that, I didn’t trip or anything like that.”
It was one of those plays where the defense had the perfect call into what the offense wanted to run. On a second-and-8 from Nebraska’s 11, the Huskers were going into a considerable north wind and tried to catch the Hawkeyes in a play where maybe they weren’t thinking pass.
“I don’t know what you want to call it,” free safety Jordan Lomax said. “It was either good execution by us or bad execution by them, but still, all credit goes to Parker Hesse. He made an unbelievable play.”
Hesse’s play was emblematic of what Iowa’s defense has been this season. Coming into Nebraska, Iowa players were drilled with questions about being out of gas. The numbers Iowa allowed the last few weeks supported that.
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On the flip side of that, Hesse is a redshirt freshman who’s played more this season than he could’ve dreamed. After senior Drew Ott suffered a torn ACL on Oct. 10, Hesse plugged in and hasn’t been a star, but has kept the car pointed in the right direction.
“It’s been a learning experience the whole way through,” said Hesse, whose last TD came in the 2013 Class 2A state title game on a QB sneak for Waukon High School. “Every week we’re just trying to get better and take a step forward.”
Hesse took the plunge in October, sophomore Bo Bower took it in the first quarter Friday. Sophomore outside linebacker Ben Niemann suffered what looked to be a concussion on a pass on the Nebraska sideline. Niemann went to the lockerroom and didn’t return to play. Head coach Kirk Ferentz said in the postgame that Niemann was OK.
That thrust Bower, a starter last season who lost a close camp battle for the weakside position with senior Cole Fisher, into the game. He responded with five tackles, a tackle for loss and a QB hurry.
“I just think we have good guys on the team, that’s all,” Bower said. “Last year and this and that, but it’s this year and we’re 12-0 right now.”
Hesse said he didn’t really notice how quiet Memorial Stadium was after his pick six. Bower said he couldn’t tell, either, but for a much different reason.
“I was yelling,” he said.
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