SPORTS

No. 4 Iowa 28, Nebraska 20

'One big, crazy dream'

LINCOLN, Neb. — They did the swarm to the big red “N” in the middle of the field. They took a right turn and ran into the south end zone and lifted the Heroes Trophy. Then, they took another right and ran to the southwest corner of Memorial Stadium.

This place is great and big and red, but in this moment, there were a bunch of kids jogging toward a raucous mass of fans dressed in black.

Some of the Hawkeyes scoped the stands for loved ones. Others ran wildly through the ring of Iowa fans along the fence.

Iowa season stats

2015-SeasonStats by Marc Morehouse

Tight end George Kittle was a tornado of high fives. Quarterback C.J. Beathard kept a lookout for his dad, Casey. He wasn’t able to find him, but he sure hugged the winter off of someone. Offensive line coach Brian Ferentz just peered up and fought tears. Defensive coordinator Phil Parker didn’t take his eyes off the Iowa crowd until he was nearly up the Memorial Stadium tunnel.

“12-0, 12-0, 12-0” was the chant. That echoed through the stadium. It’ll always echo, now and forever.

The Hawkeyes (12-0, 8-0 Big Ten) put the finishing touches on their perfect season pretty much the way they’ve done it all year — total-team style. Running back Jordan Canzeri scored on consecutive runs of 29 and 68-yard runs in the third quarter, while the Iowa defense picked off Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong four times in Friday’s 28-20 victory before 90,830 fans.

When tight end Henry Krieger Coble vacuumed up an onside kick with 1:16 left, the Hawkeyes completed an undefeated season for the fifth time in school history and won a school-record 12th game.

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“This season has been one big, crazy dream,” linebacker Cole Fisher said with a goofy grin and eyes glazed with wonder.

“12-0, 12-0, 12-0.”

“I don’t hear much when I’m out there on the field,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said, “but in the fourth quarter, to hear our fans, having some fun up there, for them for the first time to be able to say 12-0, I guess they were chanting there, that’s just fantastic.”

“12-0, 12-0, 12-0.”

“Nooooo, never,” strong safety Miles Taylor said when asked if he’s ever been on a 12-0 team. “Oh wait, maybe basketball, maybe CYO basketball.”

“12-0, 12-0, 12-0.”

“I’m from Tennessee and I have a big family, everybody was back home celebrating Thanksgiving,” Beathard said. “My dad felt like someone should be here, and he loves coming to these games. He told me he’s not going to have another opportunity to come to Nebraska and see us beat Nebraska at Nebraska, so he made the trip.”

Iowa @ Nebraska box

IOWA12-StatPack by Marc Morehouse

“12-0, 12-0, 12-0.”

“We have a good fan base and they travel,” Beathard said. “We could hear them on the sidelines. We heard the ‘Iowa’ chant going in that big Nebraska crowd.”

The Iowa celebration blotted out the big red “A” in the “Nebraska” painted in the south end zone. Iowa kind of did turn Nebraska (5-7, 3-5) into “Nebrask.”

The Hawkeyes stayed one step ahead of the Huskers on a 24-degree day that saw a north wind buzz at 13 mph. It was a rough overall day for Memorial Stadium, having its “A” blotted out and all, but it knew it was in for a fight when defensive end Parker Hesse tipped an Armstrong pass and returned it 4 yards for a 14-7 lead with 6:38 left in the first half.

“Just pure excitement, pure joy, really,” Hesse said. “It’s pretty indescribable.”

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Canzeri’s TD runs did come on consecutive plays, with each giving the Hawkeyes a two-score lead. The Huskers’ comeback charge couldn’t gain momentum with Armstrong’s interceptions unplugging them. Those turnovers made up for the fact that Iowa went 0-for-9 on third down a stat the Hawkeyes could live with.

“I think what we saw (in video study preparing for Iowa) was why they won today,” Nebraska coach Mike Riley said. “It’s not overly dramatic, but the best way I can put it is this is a solid football team.”

Last season, Iowa finished 0-for-4 in trophy games. That got your attention. Saturday, Iowa completed the total turnaround, finishing off a 4-for-4 with wins over Iowa State, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska. The Hawkeyes also threw in the Big Ten West Division trophy. It will play for a silver football next weekend at the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis.

“We’ve had a lot to prove,” wide receiver Tevaun Smith said. “There were a lot of people doubting that we could win this game. I think that’s what is keeping this train moving.”

Last year’s result against Nebraska released the hounds on Ferentz, who didn’t help himself with a “That’s football.”

In a rather curt manner, Ferentz at the end of 2014, a 7-6 run that crash landed in Jacksonville, declined to discuss the notion of outside noise around the program.

Ferentz didn’t high-five himself given the chance Friday evening. He did acknowledge the outside noise and, really, how could he not hear it echo throughout a 90,000-seat stadium when it was all Hawkeyes fans there at the end.

“12-0, 12-0, 12-0.”

“I did hear that one,” Ferentz said. “That one sounded pretty good, actually.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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