Last year everything fell into place to allow the Hawks to win the west and get to travel to Indianapolis to get de-pantsed by Michigan. This year the stars seemed to align perfectly for the Hawkeyes to get another shot at the Wolverines for a B1G Championship. Someone forgot to tell the team of our plans, however. The Hawkeyes came out flat, suffered an injury to their second best player, Cooper DeJean, and didn’t have enough time to pull off yet another comeback victory against the Cornhuskers. I had written that I thought Nebraska would win 23-16. The 24-17 result was about what I thought would happen, but Iowa should have taken care of business to make it two years in a row playing for a B1G championship.
So the saying “If you have two quarterbacks you have none,” is very much an accurate statement. After a horrendous first half of the season, quarterback Spencer Petras had strung together some decent performances. That was not the case on Friday. Petras missed on five of his first six throws. He wildly inaccurate and then was knocked out due to injury. Alex Padilla came in and solidified the idea that if the Hawks don’t go to the transfer portal this offseason they better hope that our new offensive coordinator / QB coach (please) is a QB whisperer because we need Joey Labas, Carson May, or Marco Lainez to elevate this position. And if our offensive line doesn’t improve, we may need extra signal callers because the guys back there are going to get clobbered. Padilla struggled on the day, going 16-33 for 141 yards and 1 touchdown and 1 interception. He had two more balls that should have been intercepted. Padilla also fumbled a snap. Padilla looks like he has had the confidence coached out of him. One aspect that Padilla brings to the table is that he has some mobility. He had quite a bit of real estate ahead of him a few times if he tucked the ball and ran, but he didn’t look like he thought about it.
Ok, what’s going on here? Iowa’s running backs, without fullback Monte Pottebaum, had 157 net rushing yards on 26 carries. That’s an average of 6.03 yards per carry. That’s fantastic football; why then did we throw the ball 39 times? I get it that we fell in a big hole at half, but with the speed of Kaleb Johnson, the Hawks are more likely to hit on a Johnson home run than a consistent job of throwing the football. Johnson led the Hawks with 109 yards on 16 carries. He’s going to be fun to watch going forward. Leshon Williams ended up with 43 yards on nine carries. Gavin Williams had one carry for five yards.
Nico Ragaini led the wideouts with seven catches for 60 yards. Arland Bruce IV was the only other wide receiver with a reception. Diante Vines and Brody Brecht were both held without a catch with five targets between them. It was said that Keagan Johnson was healthy enough to play. He was on the participation report so he saw the field in some respect. Hopefully Keagan stays healthy and is able to play in the bowl game.
Iowa’s best offensive player, Sam LaPorta, missed the game due to a leg injury he suffered in the Gopher game. Luke Lachey took the bull by the horns and set himself up to be the main dude next year. Lachey had seven catches, 89 yards, and this touchdown.
Hopefully Iowa gets its offensive line figured out, because this year has been hard to watch. Petras and Padilla were sacked three times on the day. Petras didn’t return after he was sacked. Nebraska also had six quarterback hurries (QBH) on the day. The good news is that this group is fairly young/inexperienced, but there needs to be an overhaul this offseason with a coaching change, the transfer portal, and hopefully bringing in Kadyn Proctor.
Iowa’s defensive line did an acceptable job up front. Nebraska netted 51 yards on 35 carries. Logan Lee led the unit with seven tackles, including 1 TFL. Noah Shannon also had a very good game. He had six tackles, 1 sack, and 2.5 TFL’s. John Waggoner had a forced fumble, Deontae Craig collected a sack, and Logan Klemp recovered a fumble.
We are getting to the end of the Hawkeye careers of linebackers Seth Benson and Jack Campbell. Luckily, we will be able to watch them play on Sundays. Benson and Campbell each had eight tackles. Jay Higgins did not play due to injury. There will be opportunities next year for Iowa’s younger linebackers to see the field.
If you’ve been reading these grades for a while you know that they are very much subjective. Cooper DeJean getting knocked out of the game was devastating for Iowa’s defense. After Jack Campbell, DeJean is our best football player. At halftime Phil Parker was able to make an adjustment to slow the Husker passing game down, but by that time the damage had been done. Casey Thompson threw for 278 yards and three TD’s. Trey Palmer caught nine balls for 165 yards and two scores.
Special Teams: B
Tory Taylor punted five times for an average of 42.8 yards. He had four balls inside the twenty yard line. Drew Stevens continued an excellent true frosh campaign. He converted on his two extra points as well as a field goal from 45 yards. Arland Bruce IV had a big turnover by muffing a punt early in the second half. Yet another case in point showing how important Cooper DeJean is to this team.