The Iowa Hawkeyes roared back from down 21-6 in the most unconventional way possible to defeat the Nebraska Cornhuskers 28-21 in Lincoln. The win puts Iowa at 10-2 (7-2 Big Ten) while the Huskers continue their streak of close, but no cigar as they fall to 3-9 (1-8 Big Ten).
I’ll be honest. I’m dumbfounded. Between the continued complete incompetence on offense for the third game in a row, the absolutely awful officiating (I don’t like to complain about officiating but holy shit), the defense’s inability to stop Logan Smothers and the Nebraska option offense, and the seemingly insurmountable deficit, Iowa seemed dead in the water.
That is, until the defense — and Tyler Goodson — came alive in the fourth quarter. Matching touchdowns with field goals seemed to be a losing strategy until...well...it mattered. Iowa split time between its two quarterbacks, with Alex Padilla going 6/14 for 76 yards, while Spencer Petras off the bench went 7/13 for 102 yards and a sneak touchdown. Tyler Goodson meanwhile finished the day with 153 yards on 23 carries, including the game-sealing run late in the fourth quarter that set up the Petras sneak.
A 22-0 Iowa fourth-quarter run in the most Iowa way possible. pic.twitter.com/cS1hy6tHMz— Chris Vannini (@ChrisVannini) November 26, 2021
The Huskers, down Adrian Martinez, came out the gate focusing on the run game, with heavy emphasis on the option with Smothers and carries to running back Yaquez Yant. The Hawkeyes struggled to stop the run, which allowed Smothers to then bomb a pass down the field and two plays later, Smothers found the end zone to go up 7-0 after barely five minutes of the game had passed.
Iowa responded with an emphasis on Goodson and the run game as well, which opened up Padilla for a beautiful play action fake to LaPorta for a big gain, which opened up the pass game for Padilla, who continued to look more comfortable slinging the ball. A false start on 3rd and goal seemed to kill the drive, but Goodson erupted to the goal line, setting up a 4th and goal. It looked like Padilla was handing off, but he faked for a play action screen to LaPorta in the end zone for six, but after review was called back after being called a touchdown on the field.
But the defense thankfully didn’t give up another long drive to the Huskers, forcing a 3-and-out and getting the ball back at the 50. But the Husker defense sent the pressure on Padilla and forced the Hawkeyes to punt.
But another questionable call on the ensuing drive killed Iowa’s momentum, but this time, Shudak was given the green light to kick from 51 yards and converted, cutting the Nebraska lead to 7-3 with 10 minutes left in the first half.
On Nebraska’s next drive, the defense once again struggled to get the Huskers off the field as the run game gashed the Hawkeyes, finding the end zone once again to go up 14-4 with 4:20 left in the half.
The official’s questionable calls continued on Iowa’s next drive, finally benefitting the Hawkeyes on a late hit on Padilla, but once again the offense couldn’t covert, requiring Shudak to clean up the mess, cutting the Nebraska lead to 14-6 to end the half.
Iowa received the ball to start the second half, this time with Spencer Petras under center, with an emphasis placed on the run game. Goodson continued looking solid, Nebraska was called for offsides, and then Monte Pottebaum ripped off a big run, which took Iowa close to the red zone. But, on a nice run, Goodson fumbled and killed the team’s chances to score.
From there, Smothers’ strong play on the ground and through the air continued as the Huskers moved down the field with ease once again. Even facing pressure from the defense, Smothers was able to still get the ball out of this hands and find his receiver, and a play later, Nebraska punched it in for a 21-6 lead.
But instead of going for 6, Iowa once again settled for 3 on the next drive — again — a really bold strategy that obviously didn’t pay off. But at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Iowa blocked a Nebraska kick and took it into the end zone to bring life back to what had been the rotting corpse of an entire football program - 21-16.
Nebraska’s implosion continued on its next drive as they fumbled on a handoff, which the defense converted into a turnover. But on Iowa’s first play after the turnover, Petras was sacked, Goodson couldn’t get anything going on the next play, and Petras almost threw another pick on the next play and the momentum was gone as fast as it arrived.
But the best offense is defense for the Hawkeyes, who forced a safety on an intentional grounding play to make the score 21-18. Finally on the next drive, Petras was allowed to throw on first down and hit LaPorta on the same play that Padilla had executed so well in the first half. But Padilla couldn’t convert to Keagan Johnson on 3rd down and Shudak came back again to tie the game at 21 with just over 7 minutes left to play.
Nebraska couldn’t get anything going on its ensuing drive, but got a favorable bounces on the punt. But it didn’t matter, as Goodson finally erupted for a huge run on second down, and the Hawkeyes, once down 21-6, found the end zone offensively on a Petras sneak on 3rd down to take a 28-21 lead with just under 3 minutes in the game.
Nebraska’s attempt at a game-tying drive was rife with stupidity, as the officials decided they needed to review every breath taken by the Huskers, making the last minute and a half last an eternity. But Smothers wasn’t done yet, and he did his best impression of Adrian Martinez yet: throwing an interception to Harris on what could have been the game-tying drive.
Hawks win. I have no words. Why does 10-2 simultaneously feel great and so disappointing at the same time?