The Iowa-Nebraska game feels like ages ago at this point. It might be the extra day in there. But more likely, it was the crazy day of college football on Saturday that almost made me forget about the very good, 21-point win over the Husker in Lincoln the day before. It takes a lot to make me forget about Iowa Football, but what Auburn did on Saturday was truly remarkable.
I married into an Auburn family. My wife grew up in Alabama and went to Auburn...her parents as well. I watched the Iron Bowl with them on Saturday and it was something amazing. The pain when A.J. McCarron completed that 99-yard touchdown. The triumph of Nick Marshall's matching game-tying TD pass, where he manage to switch the ball in his hands and chuck it downfield inches before crossing the line of scrimmage. The anxiety and frustration on the refs putting an extra second back on the clock. And then the absolute, most insane, indescribable, incredible joy of the final play. While my in-laws probably didn't reach the level of wildness as some Auburn fans...it was nuts. I don't think as an Iowa fan I can ever know what it truly feels like with the Auburn-Alabama rivalry, especially a game where Auburn beats a top-ranked Alabama to reach the SEC Championship game on such an unbelievable play. But I imagine it is like squishing together Tate-to-Hollow, the Landon Donovan World Cup goal against Algeria, and your children being born.
Anyway...Iowa beat Nebraska by 3 touchdowns. That was pretty great too.
Running back rotation
Mark Weisman carried the load on Friday with 24 carries for 72 yards. Jordan Canzeri only had 6 carries and Damon Bullock 3. But the way Canzeri was used as a change of pace to Weisman worked very well. Weisman was used heavily early on Iowa first two drives, and though the Hawks didn't come up with any points, came away with great field position and the start of Nebraska's defense taking a pounding. On the third series, Canzeri came in, had a good run to start things off before Jake Rudock finished it with his arm. A few series later, it was Canzeri, this time taking a check down pass for a 29-yard gain that set up a manly run by Weisman down to the 1 and then another run by Weisman to finish it off and put Iowa up 14-0.
Finally, in the 4th quarter, Nebraska had battle back to 17-24 and Rudock was out with a sprained knee. After Christian Kirksey put a big hit on Ameer Abdullah forcing a fumble, Canzeri started the drive with a big 37-yard run on the outside down to the 2. Weisman comes in, cleans things up, and Iowa goes up 31-17...and game over.
Iowa senior linebackers played a fantastic game. They combined for 28 tackles, 7 TFL, 2 INTs, 2 forced fumbles, 2 sacks, 2 pass breakups, 3 QB hurries, and probably another 5 or 6 big hits on Ron Kellogg. They were phenomenal and played a major role in slowing down Abdullah. Abdullah finished with a season-low 85 rushing yards and had a long of just 12 yards. He wasn't stopped completely though. At the start of the second half, he basically drove Nebraska down the field by himself and scored a 5-yard TD that made it a 4-point game. But he also had a fumble at the end of the game that helped seal the deal for Iowa.
I wrote, "If the Hawkeye's keep Abdullah around or below 100 yards, that'll be a win" on Wednesday, and that turned out to be true.
The turnover battle
Nebraska's turnover problems showed up again on Friday. Coming into the game they were already the 2nd worst team in the nation in fumbles...and then had 2 more (with one recovered by Iowa). Kellogg, who had only thrown 1 pick this year in his limited action, threw 2 back-to-back on the Huskers' first 2 possessions. He cleaned things up after that, but the damage was done. Iowa score 14 points off of Nebraska's 3 turnovers. And, I think for the first time this season, Iowa didn't have a single turnover. The Hawkeye held on to the ball and didn't have a fumble, and Rudock (and Beathard, I guess) never really came close to throwing a pick.
Nebraska had so many injuries, I don't even really know what seniors were playing. Kellogg was the most prominent and did okay. He had those two picks and completely just 19 of 37 passes. But, I was impressed the way he managed to stay in the game despite taking huge hit after huge hit from the Iowa linebackers. The senior corners were pretty quiet, though Iowa didn't throw a lot. And Quincy Enunwa was a factor with 3 catches and a TD.
But all in all, Iowa went into Lincoln and ruined senior day for 23 Huskers. And that is all that matters.
Pretty much the same as my prediction...
Both teams are going to lean heavy on the run. I think Abdullah will have the best day of any of the running backs, but Iowa will have the better day overall with its 3 running backs. Jake Rudock, who plays better on the road, will take care of the ball and manage the game better than Kellogg and Iowa takes home the Hero trophy.
Abdullah had 85 yards on the ground with a TD, but Weisman and Canzeri combine for 131 and 2 TDs. Rudock only had to throw the ball 15 times and he completed 9 with 2 TDs. Kellogg threw it a lot more and had 2 costly interceptions. Iowa wins.