Going into the inaugural "Black Friday" matchup between Nebraska and Iowa, I felt the battle came down to which team wanted it more...and at least in the parking lots, the Hawkeyes seemed to be more motivated.
Fortunately, the Huskers didn't share that same vibe. Right from the start, the Blackshirts defended Iowa the same way they defended Michigan State. Shut down the running back, and blanket the leading wide receiver. Marcus Coker got a few yards, but never was able to consistently get the Hawkeyes into situations where quarterback James Vandenberg could capitalize with play-action passing. And with Alfonzo Dennard locked down on Marvin McNutt...and the Hawkeye offense was essentially neutered.
I was wrong. Offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe puts the ball in the hands of Marcus Coker, who runs right into a blitzing Andrew Green for a half-yard loss. The third down pass goes incomplete...and the Hawkeyes have to punt.
Lavonte David had another stellar game with a highlight reel play. Fiedorowicz pushed David to the ground to convert a third and 11. But David got the best of Fiedorowicz, regaining his feet to strip Fiedorowicz of the ball downfield. Fiedorowicz got the double fail on that play: offensive pass interference (declined of course) and the fumble. But NFL scouts might not be impressed by the difficulty David had bringing around Coker.
Offensively, the Husker offense set the tone early by overpowering Iowa's defense. Early on, only ill-advised penalties stopped the Huskers on the ground. After the game, Bo Pelini said that Taylor Martinez sprained an ankle, so the offense became totally focused on Rex Burkhead...and the heart of the Husker offense ground out another sausage game: 159 yards on a school record 38 carries. No long runs today; he just made his cuts and gutted out five and ten yard runs all day despite barely being able to walk at times.
Add in a few nice catches by Kenny Bell and Quincy Enunwa, and you had enough offense to win the game today. Nebraska is banged up, and probably wouldn't have been in a good position to compete next weekend in Indianapolis if they had qualified. But it was enough against Iowa.
It wasn't a thing of beauty today in Lincoln. But it was a solid win that doesn't so much as earn Nebraska "bragging rights", but rather denies Iowa fans any "bragging rights" for the next twelve months.
So now Husker fans can sit back for the next week and eye a New Years Day bowl game against the SEC. Will it be the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, or the Outback Bowl in Tampa? My preference is the Outback...if only because the Outback is televised on ABC. (Hey, I'm not traveling, so destination doesn't matter to me at this point...just the television broadcast!) We don't know the opponent at this point, but having five and a half weeks to heal up is a good thing for the Big Red at this point.