For the second week in a row, the Iowa Hawkeyes snagged victory from the jaws of defeat as the time honored tradition of members of the esteemed Purdy football family throwing costly picks against Iowa continued.
This time, it was the young Chubba Purdy, with the game tied at 10 and the ball in his hands with more than enough time and space to set up a game winning field goal throwing the ball directly into the hands of Iowa defensive lineman Ethan Hurkett. The interception set up a LeShon Williams huge run that set Iowa up into great field goal position…and after a horrific game, saw the benching of kicker Drew Stevens for Marshall Meeder, who scraped in the game winning field goal to give Iowa a 10-win regular season, while simultaneously keeping Nebraska out of a bowl game.
Talk about a CHEF’S KISS.
The rest of the game was…rough. Deacon Hill smashed back to reality in a big way, tallying 94 yards and an interception on 11/28 passing, but did add 10 rushing yards and Iowa’s lone touchdown. The run game had an ok day, with Williams tallying 111 yards on 16 carries, and Kaleb Johnson added 10 carries for 30 yards. Brian Ferentz also made some extremely questionable calls, particularly Deacon’s last throw that was intercepted, and the offense just never got anything big going.
The Hawkeyes won the toss, elected to receive…and promptly went 3-and-out to start the game after Nico Ragaini dropped a gimme pass from Hill on 3rd and long. Nebraska’s first drive was somewhat similar, moving the chains once before being stopped quickly by Iowa’s defense.
Things got moving for the Iowa offense on its second drive. Hill got things moving through the air with a 13 yard gain on second down to Kaleb Brown, and it kicked off a string of strong completions for the sophomore quarterback. It looked like the drive was going to end without points..and technically it did, until Nebraska’s Ethan Nation fumbled the punt return and promptly gave Iowa the ball right back in the red zone.
But the Brian Ferentz effect in the red zone reared its ugly had thanks to two terrible play calls on the first two downs, setting up Deacon Hill holding onto the ball way too long on third and long, resulting in a field goal attempt. Iowa was called for a delay of game, setting up a 30-yard attempt for Drew Stevens…which was blocked.
Iowa started the second quarter with a Hill PA bootleg to Stillianos who put in some work to gain some extra yards and got Iowa back into the red zone. Two plays later, Hill snuck into the end zone and gave Iowa the early 7-0 lead.
Nebraska was moving the ball nicely on its next drive, converting a key third and long, but then Purdy scrambled and fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Jay Higgins. Iowa took its time on the next drive, moving the ball slowly but surely (and also wasting a challenge on a very ball spot). Some suspect play calls, particularly on third and long (a screen to Kaleb Brown where he made something from nothing and a bad, bad run call on third and long) eventually killed the drive, but Iowa had moved the ball enough to get into field goal range for Stevens, who increased Iowa’s lead to 10-0 with a hair over 5 minutes remaining in the first half.
It seemed like that might be enough for Iowa to head home with a win, until Purdy found an absolutely wide open Lloyd beating Lee for a 66-yard touchdown to cut the lead down to 3 — the biggest play allowed by the defense all year.
Thankfully, Iowa responded with a big play of its own, with LeShon Williams ripping off a 53 yard run to get Iowa right back into scoring position. Iowa, of course, being Iowa, could not find the end zone, setting up another field goal…that was again blocked. But Stevens recovered it, fumbled it, and almost had it run in by Black, but the officials ruled it dead and that score took us to the half.
Iowa started the second half with another bad kick by Drew Stevens, but the Cornhuskers could not do anything with the ball and quickly punted it away. Iowa responded by having some risky throws by Deacon followed by a punt of their own.
The ensuing Nebraska drive went much better for the Huskers, making a huge conversion on 3rd and long that put them right into Iowa territory. And yet, in the continuing battle of inept offenses, Nebraska screwed themselves over with bad play calls and could not find the end zone. Instead, they settled for a 44 yard field goal and tied up the game with 6:18 left in the third quarter.
A battle of punts ensued from there, as both offenses battled to determine who was more inept. At one point, Purdy even pulled a classic Purdy family move and just coughed up the ball that no one e Ben came near touching, but did set up a perfect Nebraska punt where Iowa started on the one yard line.
Despite Deacon nearly giving up a safety, Iowa managed to escape the dangerous situation with a Taylor punt, giving Nebraska starting field position at the 50 as a result. Harris was then reviewed for a potential targeting call, but he hit the ball with his head and was not called for anything.
Purdy then made a solid throw to convert against Iowa’s ineffective blitz, and Nebraska had itself a drive going as my sense of imminent dread grew by the play. Iowa did manage to finally make a stop, and Nebraska missed a kick into the wind, keeping us at a game tied at 10 with 5:07 left to play.
After three consecutive three-and-outs, Iowa finally managed to move the chains on the next drive, but quickly things were bottled back up and the Hawkeyes were forced to punt, giving Nebraska back the ball with 2:18 to play.
Nebraska also could not get anything going, and punted the ball back to Iowa with 55 seconds left and the ball on the 30 yard line. Deacon promptly threw an incompletion on first down and was then even more promptly sacked on second down. And then like clockwork, Deacon threw an interception. But thankfully, Nebraska was called on a hold on the return, moving them back out of hypothetical field goal range.
But, because like I said before, this was a battle for ineptitude, Purdy responded with an interception of his own that was picked off by Hurkett and returned a bit. Williams responded with a big run of his own to get Iowa into what should been easy field goal range for Stevens….
But instead, Ferentz benched Stevens for Marshall Meeder, who got the 42 kick by the slimmest margin possible, and Iowa escaped Lincoln with a victory.