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The Morning After: Iowa

What is the pulse of Husker Nation this morning? Lets find out what folks are saying.

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Steve Sipple/Lincoln Journal-Star: On this day, Husker stars supersede coaching speculation.

You're not getting much Bo Pelini speculation from me this day.

That discussion gets old.

Playmakers were the story Friday. Imagine that.

Imagine focusing on players and not the head coach or the athletic director or the chancellor.

Nebraska defeated Iowa 37-34 in overtime because Pelini's team never considered giving up. The Huskers rallied from 17 points down in the third quarter. It was wild. It was entertaining. It was bizarre. And, yes, it was brutally ugly at times.

But from this day forward, I promise I'm not going to be the wise-guy sports writer who constantly diminishes victories unless they're against a top-25 team.

Pelini's teams can't beat anybody "with a pulse," his critics like to pound down your throat.

I dare someone to tell hard-charging Iowa running back Mark Weisman he doesn't have a pulse. Or maybe that special snarky someone could straddle up to a couple of Iowa's defensive linemen and say the same.

Or do this: Tell Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong he's lacking in poise, toughness and, yes, skill. He made plays in the clutch. Almost too many to count.

Whatever you think of him, don't ever question Armstrong's toughness. He played with sore ribs. That was news to the Husker press corps.

"I can tell you this: That is one of the guttiest performances I've seen in a long time from a quarterback," said Pelini, the seventh-year Nebraska head coach who some folks think is in danger of not getting an eighth year.

"Let me tell you, Tommy ain't perfect. He has a lot to learn and a lot of things to get better at. But there isn't anybody who competes harder than he does.

"He competed his butt off … I thought it was a pretty special performance by that kid."

Tom Shatel/Omaha World-Herald: After display of resilience, Husker players give credit to 'Coach Bo'

They say they have fight, and you wonder where it was in Madison, when Wisconsin was coming downhill like a giant snowball. You wonder where it was last week, when Minnesota out-toughed them on Senior Day.

Don’t wonder. This is who they are, this is what they do. And maybe it’s just that Iowa isn’t as good as Wisconsin or Minnesota. But the Huskers will flash that heart. You can’t question that.

"A lot of people would (give up)," Kenny Bell said. "No Big Ten championship. But this group of guys has unbelievable resiliency."

It’s the kind that can make you proud or drive you insane. Or both.

In that sense, this victory is an indictment of the program, too, the sort of thing they do when expectations are gone and the stakes are low.

It’s the kind of game that reminds people why they want to root for Pelini, if only they could forget the past two games.

Iowa won’t soon forget this one. The Hawkeyes had control of this thing, but then they went away from the run, then couldn’t run at all, and were completely on their heels when the lightning bolts started flying around.

Meanwhile, they must not have watched film of De’Mornay Pierson-El returning punts.

The Hawkeyes opened the door and the Huskers stormed back in. And this would-be rivalry had the kind of compelling back-and-forth game and ending that rivalries are built upon.

Just think if it had meant more than third place in the Big Ten West.

This will be a bittersweet win for the Huskers. A thrilling day, but when they started in August, if you had asked how many of them would take 9-3, finish third in the West and beat Iowa in overtime, not many hands would have gone up.

So why were they smiling?

We talk a lot about the big picture of Nebraska football around here. So much, that sometimes you miss the little snapshots.

These young men aren’t trying to lose. They want to win. We need to remind ourselves of that. Lord knows I do.

It’s a game we obsess over, but it’s still a game. A game they love to play. And that’s how I’ll remember this one.


Nebraska executed a punt off its own lineman's butt and still executed better on special teams than Iowa.  Tommy Armstrong (who Gary Dolphin kept calling Tommy Frazier) went 12/27 for 202 yards and two interceptions, and was still the better quarterback.  Nebraska gave up 31 regulation points to Greg Davis, and was still at least on par with Iowa's defense.  In the parlance of Millionaire Kirk, it was a loss in all three phases of the game.

We'll get into the details later -- like how Iowa blew second-half leads to two of its four primary rivals this year, or how the trophy case will sit empty for the second time in three seasons, or how Ferentz is now below .500 in the Big Ten since signing college football's biggest contract and 10-11 at Kinnick in the last three seasons and hasn't beaten a ranked opponent since 2011 and still somehow keeps getting paid -- but for now, there is little more to say than that Iowa ended up exactly where it should have: 7-5 overall, 4-4 in the Big Ten, fourth in a crappy division behind three primary rivals who all beat it, with a Brewster-like talk to performance ratio.

Season tickets to watch this mess, a steal at $400 plus that seat license fee, go on sale in the spring.  Better queue up.

Rick Brown/Des Moines Register: A disappointing Hawkeye season in every way

It's been a decade since the last time the Big Ten trophy landed in Iowa City. And Friday, Iowa finished 0-4 in trophy games: Iowa State, Minnesota, Wisconsin. Nebraska.

"Senior year, to lose all those trophies ... it's hard to talk about that right now," Davis said.

Friday's loss will linger, because there's no next game to flush it away until bowl season. A 7-5 record will not bring a lot of ho-ho-ho over the holidays.

One more game, Ferentz said, then it's time to dissect what happened.

But it doesn't take another game to come to this conclusion: The 2015 season might be the most important one Ferentz has coached at Iowa.

Dirk Chatelain/Omaha World-Herald: The Pelini paradox? There are no good answers.

In November 1987, after two straight losses, Earle Bruce’s Buckeyes met Iowa. They led in the final 15 seconds when the Hawkeyes faced a fourth-and-23.

Tight end Marv Cook caught the pass at the 10 and cut back, where a Buckeye safety hit him at the 1-yard line, a moment too late to stop the touchdown. The safety’s name:

Bo Pelini.

It was Ohio State’s fourth loss of the season. It was the death knell for Earle Bruce. Two days later, he was fired and the Buckeye fan base was in shambles. Ohio State went 4-6-1 in 1988, 8-4 in ’89 and 7-4-1 in ’90, Pelini’s senior year.

Not until John Cooper’s fifth season did Ohio State crack the Top 10. Not until his ninth season did the Buckeyes make the Rose Bowl.

There’s a lesson here, just as there’s a lesson from Steve Pederson’s decision to fire Frank Solich after win No. 9 in 2003: There are no easy answers. There’s no guarantee the next guy will do the job better. And dang it, there’s something to be said for winning football games. Falling behind by 17 on a division rival’s home field and finding a way.

Twenty-seven years after Iowa broke his heart, Pelini’s team did what Earle Bruce’s team couldn’t. It made the play.

The Huskers carried the Heroes Trophy off the field. Bell and Suh embraced on the sideline. I watched it all unfold, torn by another paradox.

This scene was the essence of college football. This scene was something Bell will remember the rest of his life. And yet, if this scene was as good as it gets for Nebraska, then it’s time to move on. The standard of success can’t be nine wins and trophy games.

In a span of four hours Friday, you witnessed all of the virtues and vulnerabilities of Nebraska. A signature performance.

Now it’s Shawn Eichorst’s turn. He knows the predicament. He knows the stakes.

How will HE choose to lead?