Each week we’ve gotten through the Iowa game and tried to come up with explanations for what we witnessed. It’s been fun and it’s been frustrating, but thanks for following along this year, I’ve had a lot of fun doing this. Oh, and as always, catch all our previous rewatches right here.
I’m still kinda shocked this was the last game of the regular season. You get so engrossed in the season and before you know it, it’s gone. Yeesh.
While it has been an up-and-down year (to say the least) this one... this one felt real damn good. Iowa’s offense was able to put together another complete game, the defense did its job and the special teams overcame some early miscues and had some big plays.
But most importantly...we beat the hell out of the Huskers for the second year in a row. Not a whole lot that feels better than that.
The Hawkeyes went 3-of-4 in trophy games this season and that’s a positive as well. Still want Albert, though. That’ll have to wait until next year, I guess.
Anyways, the biggest thing for Iowa in this game was the dominance of the running game. Akrum Wadley was simply brilliant, rushing for 159 yards on 19 carries. As a group, the rushing attack toted the ball 47 times for 313 yards.
OFFENSIVE SNAP COUNTS
Note: These are just snaps with the first unit, basically until they pulled Stanley in the 4Q
Wide receiver: Matt VandeBerg (38), Ihmir Smith-Marsette (32), Nick Easley (30), Brandon Smith (2), Max Cooper (1).
Tight end: T.J. Hockenson (51), Noah Fant (37), Nate Wieting (13), Peter Pekar (1).
Fullback: Brady Ross (16), Drake Kulick (15).
Running back: Akrum Wadley (38), James Butler (15), Toren Young (4), Ivory Kelly-Martin (3).
Iowa smashed Nebraska into oblivion. Seriously. It was brutal. Brian Ferentz and Co. used multiple tight ends on 19 of the 26 snaps the starters played in the second half. They also used a fullback 19 times during that period.
Now that number is inflated a bit by the fact the Hawkeyes ran seven-straight times out of the 22 formation (one WR, two TE, two RB/FB) during the starters final drive, but it still had a major impact on the game.
Interestingly enough, the Hawkeyes also had three two-play drives (all touchdowns) in the second half. I’d say the Huskers quit, and it really didn’t take much to make them do it.
That said, Iowa’s offense was extremely comfortable running the ball in the first half, too. It was a consistent attack throughout the game and the Hawkeyes only lined up to punt three times, two of which actually made it off Colten Rastetter’s foot.
That’s really good. Even better? Iowa averaged 6.7 yards per carry — it’s highest of the season.
Wadley was a major reason why.
I can’t stress how critical his first big run of the day was.
Smith-Marsette had just messed up big time, stepping out-of-bounds at the one-yard line. Stanley gives the Hawkeyes some breathing room with a two-yard QB sneak on first down, but Nebraska is going to have prime field position if they don’t do something.
Akrum Wadley does something.
This play is out of the aforementioned “22” formation and is simply an inside zone run to the right. Tristan Wirfs gets a tremendous block on DE 94 (Ben Stille), clearing out a bunch of room. Sean Welsh (79) also has a great block here and basically takes on two defenders himself.
Nebraska safety Aaron Williams (24) has a shot to tackle Wadley for minimal gain, but is juked out of his shoes and falls down. Wadley gets to the second level, Iowa has a fresh set of downs, and proceeds to march 99 yards down the field.
Fittingly, Wadley capped off the drive.
This play is out of the 12 formation (one RB, two WR, two TE). Stanley puts Hockenson and Nate Wieting in motion to the wide side of the field, which as you can see causes three Nebraska defenders to flow over to that side.
The short side of the field is pretty open, but this play is reliant on Wadley’s ability to evade.
He does get a little help, and as soon as the ball is snapped, Wieting (39) and Welsh pull, punishing the Nebraska defenders and giving Wadley juuuuust enough room to squeeze by.
After a nice cut (which puts ILB Dedrick Young on skates) he turns on the jets. Another critical part of this play? Wieting nearly falls down after his first block, but is able to lunge himself forward, knocking the two Nebraska defenders left in front of Wadley out of the play.
Boom. Touchdown. Tie game.
Wadley did have one more long run in the first half, though it was nearly a disaster.
13 personnel grouping (three tight ends, one RB, one WR), zone stretch to the left, and Iowa’s offensive line has its way with the Nebraska defenders. Alaric Jackson (77) helps spring this, taking Young (5) out of the play and allows Wadley to pick up a bit of extra yardage.
Wait, hold on, 13? Sure looks like there’s two wide receivers out there, right? Well take a look at the guy at the bottom of the screen. That’s Noah Fant.
Iowa’s done this a couple times this season and here, it pays off. Fant makes a great block downfield, giving Wadley even more room to work with.
Wadley loses the ball at the end of the play, but this is why you always sprint downfield. Smith-Marsette dives on the ball and lets an eventual game-tying drive blossom.
Good — no, great — stuff.
Wadley had a couple other important runs, but this is really the one that stabbed the dagger deep into Nebraska’s chest.
12, zone stretch to the left, touchdown.
Fant and Keegan Render (69) both are critical here and have to make solid blocks. VandeBerg and Easley both do a great job of clearing out their defenders and then blocking downfield. Wadley somehow squeezes past Antonio Reed (25) and is off to the races.
Wadley said after the game, everyone got fed. He was referring to the running backs — four of whom had touchdowns — including JIMMY G TOUCHDOWN’S FIRST TD OF THE SEASON.
Note: I really wish he would have scored more this year because I love that nickname that I blatantly stole and reworked from Jimmy Butler.
This was out of the “22” I brought up earlier. Ross blows up Dedrick Young (poor dude, he had a terrible game) and Butler is able to hit the hole. Stille misses too.
Seriously, the Nebraska defense might as well have been wet paper in this game — especially in the second half. Iowa embarrassed them in every way possible.
Including, fittingly, through the Stanley-Fant connection.
The tight end from Omaha had three catches for 116 yards. Two of those were for touchdowns, the other a 44-yard gain. Not bad, Noah.
His first catch — and touchdown — came on Iowa’s final play of the first half.
Easley clears out space for Fant, who makes a nice grab on a play that was a couple inches from getting broken up. Still kinda shocked it didn’t get deflected.
This, though, was huge. It was important, momentum-wise, to tie this game up going into halftime, especially after some of the miscues the Hawkeyes had in the first half.
Fant’s next catch was the play that preceded the Butler touchdown you just watched.
Nice play action, a deep out to Fant a nice 44-yard gain. I hesitate to say this, but I really do think as the season has gone on, Stanley’s accuracy on his deep balls has improved.
Or at least I want to think it has. Regardless, it’s pretty solid in this game. Stanley had a couple deep/mid balls dropped, but overall he was pretty solid throwing the ball against Nebraska.
Fant’s final catch:
Another short flat route and.... Fant takes it 68 yards for a score.
He’s got 10 TDs this season, the most ever by an Iowa tight end in a single season. He very well might break the tight end record for scores before his career is finished here. There’s a lot of players to be excited about on both sides of the ball on this team, but Fant’s upside is... high. Extremely high.
Which, honestly, just makes it all the more frustrating the Hawkeyes couldn’t put everything together in a couple more games this year.
Defensively Iowa was stout, especially in the second half.
Nebraska offense, first half:
Rushing: 13 for 47 yards
Passing: 10-of-16, 125 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Total: 29 plays, 173 yards, 2 TDs, no turnovers
Nebraska offense, second half:
Rushing: 8 for 20 yards
Passing: 13-of-26, 74 yards, 0 TD, 3 INTs
Total: 34 plays, 96 yards, 0 TDs, 4 turnovers (3 INT, 1 Downs)
The Hawkeyes gave up two touchdowns in the first half, both to wide receiver Stanley Morgan. He finished with seven catches for 74 yards, but was held to just 19 yards in the second half.
Remember, this was a secondary that lost safety Miles Taylor early in the game. In fact, Iowa played two freshman (corner Matt Hankins and safety Geno Stone) and a walk-on (safety Jake Gervase) for the majority of the game.
Obviously they have one of the best corners in the nation in the game as well, but Josh Jackson can’t do everything. The secondary played admirably, especially after giving up these two touchdowns in the first half.
More than anything, this was a battle between a great receiver and a great corner. Morgan has a step on Jackson, but there’s really not a lot of players that are able to make that play.
It’s just impressive. Morgan broke the single-season Nebraska record for receiving yards in this game and is almost assuredly going to the NFL. Who knows, maybe this won’t be the last time the pair face off.
His second touchdown was quite a bit less dramatic.
Jackson thought he had Gervase helping over the top and he.... did not. Touchdown.
This was really the last huge play the Husker passing offense had and with an inexperienced secondary, these things happen on occasion. This was probably the most egregious blown coverage of the day and Iowa was able to keep everything else in front of them.
The Hawkeyes only went nickel twice in this game, both which resulted in stops. Hankins had a nice pass breakup the second time they went to this coverage package.
Just a real nice play. It’s almost crazy to think Iowa had already put up 35 points on the Cornhuskers halfway through the third quarter and this play just might have prevented any kind of momentum for a comeback.
Speaking of pass coverage, three Iowa linebackers had interceptions against Nebraska.
Niemann had the first, which gave Iowa great field position in the third quarter. Just an awful, awful throw from Tanner Lee.
I’m also going to use this moment to say I think Niemann has been underrated this season. He’s third on the team this season in tackles with 75, has six tackles for loss, is responsible for five broken up passes and forced two fumbles.
Nothing really crazy, but he’s been a solid presence on this team over the past couple seasons and he’ll be missed.
Jewell had the second interception and was a fiend in the passing game throughout the day. The Butkus Award snub had eight tackles, one tackle for loss, and three (!) broken up passes.
Nearly a fumble, but Jewell caught it, assuring Iowa they wouldn’t have a repeat of the first play of the game.
Parker Hesse very nearly had a touchdown, but this play was ruled an incomplete pass.
Almost a strip-sack by Anthony Nelson, but he didn’t quite get there in time. Regardless, I think this play set the tone of the game.
Iowa’s defensive line wasn’t quite as brutal as normal and had just one sack, but was still able to get a bit of pressure on Lee.
Hesse was actually the one with said sack.
The Hawkeyes were able to get stops and make the Cornhuskers’ offense miserable in the second half, which really was the game.
I honestly think Nebraska kind of quit, too. It happened about midway through the third quarter, but they just started playing with a lot less energy. Maybe it was the fact they couldn’t get a first down (12 total on the day, 5-of-15 on 3rd down) or the that Iowa came out and had two quick scores, but they quit.
You could start to see it after Smith-Marsette’s long return to begin the second half.
Nebraska’s special teams were absolute trash in this game and all the evidence you’d need was the fact Iowa was actually able to get any sort of return at all.
Outside of this 74-yard kickoff return (cut short of a TD because of a block in the back) Matt VandeBerg had two punt returns for 31 yards. Hell, even Max freaking Cooper had a 12-yard punt return.
While Iowa did have an early punt gaffe (shocker) that gave the Huskers seven points, this was a pretty good day for the Hawkeye special teams. Miguel Recinos had touchbacks on 6-of-9 kicks and Nebraska had just three kickoff returns for 43 yards.
Oh, and Iowa didn’t allow any yards on punt returns.
This was as thorough of a dismantling of Nebraska as we’ve all year.
Yes, the Cornhuskers are down this year, but I love this win so much. It has a chance to energize the team and push them with a bit of momentum into a bowl game.
The Hawkeyes have a chance for an eight-win season, which wouldn’t be bad considering we lost to Penn State on the last play of the game, lost in overtime against Northwestern, lost by seven to a MSU team we could have beat and whatever the hell happened against Purdue.
I’ll take it.
I almost forgot.
This play happened.
Throw them bones Nate.
Throw. Them. Bones.
We have a new favorite gif. pic.twitter.com/pMLp8krSdo— BlackHeartGoldPants (@BHGP) November 27, 2017