Of all the bad beatdowns that Nebraska has endured in recent years, this might have been the worst, all things considered. Ohio State looks to be heading towards the College Football Playoff, and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon was putting up video game-like numbers on everybody.
But this? Iowa lost to North Dakota State and was tied with Rutgers in the fourth quarter. (On the other hand, Iowa did upset Michigan, for what it's worth.)
Going into the game, you knew that Nebraska had injury issues with their quarterbacks, which was going to make this game a challenge offensively. That's not where this game was lost, though. Nebraska needed a big game from the Blackshirts, and the Blackshirts not only didn't deliver, they arguably didn't even show up. In the first quarter, Iowa seized control of the game with back-to-back 75 and 77 yard plays and never looked back.
Nebraska scored midway through the third quarter, giving Husker fans some hope that another comeback was in the works. It was, after all, a two-score game at that point and the Huskers were a fourth quarter team. It did not happen, as Nebraska only got one more first down the rest of the game – and that came on a pass interference penalty. The rout was on from there.
While this game might have been the worst beatdown in years, this season was still a huge improvement over the season before. Did fans want more? No question about it. Should Nebraska fans demand more? Absolutely yes. But all that being said, 10-3 (or even 9-4, depending on the bowl game) beats the hell out of 6-7.
With that, here's the report card. As always, your thoughts are welcome in the comments!
QB: Tommy Armstrong wasn't anywhere near 100%; in fact, I'd argue that he was operating at about 40% of his ability. Reduced to a pocket passer, Armstrong was robbed of almost all of his playmaking abilities. The really frustrating part was all of the deep incompletions, but in reality, that's Nebraska's scheme. Iowa dared Nebraska to throw deep with only single coverage on the deep patterns. After the game, offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf didn't complain about the choice of targets, but rather that Armstrong couldn't complete the throw. Were there other receivers open underneath? Probably, but they were secondary targets and in this offense, Armstrong made the correct choice according to his coaches. Grade: D-
I-Back: One of the more frustrating parts of Nebraska's offense in this game was an overdependence on the inside running game versus outside. As the game went on, Nebraska started running the ball off tackle with some success, but with the Huskers trailing, it was arguably too little, too late. The running game wasn't good, to be sure, but it wasn't horrible either. All season long, I've been rather unimpressed by Tre Bryant, especially in recent weeks when his production was being measured in inches per carry. This week, Bryant looked like he could be a productive ball carrier moving forward. That's a good thing since Terrell Newby won't be around next season. Grade: C-
Wide Receiver: Anybody else like Cethan Carter trucking that poor Iowa cornerback, much like Eric Crouch in 1999? That might have been the biggest highlight of the game for the Big Red. Unfortunately, Carter also got flagged for two false starts. Jordan Westerkamp was Nebraska's most productive receiver on the day, while Stanley Morgan alternated between great catches and frustrating misses. Grade: C+
Offensive Line: Frankly, I thought the offensive line probably held up better than I expected with the way Iowa's defensive line has been playing as of late. There was a little bit of running room, and they kept Tommy Armstrong clean. But if Nebraska is going to compete for championships, the Huskers need to excel up front. Grade: C-
Defensive Line: Iowa's offensive line pretty much had their way with Nebraska's defensive line all afternoon long. That being said, Ross Dzuris, Kevin Maurice and Carlos Davis did rack up some nice tackle numbers...just downfield. Dzuris and Maurice each had three tackles on gains of five yards or more. Grade: F
Linebacker: Watching Josh Banderas and Dedrick Young misplay Iowa’s running backs on their long runs was just painful. I thought Michael Rose-Ivey did have a decent game though. Grade: D
Secondary: I’m trying to come up with appropriate terms to describe play of the secondary. Jon would use obscenities here, but the best I can come up with is "clown show." There’s no reason that Iowa found so much open room in the secondary on those long first half plays. Grade: 0
Unspecial Teams: Kind of a moot point now that Bruce Read has been dismissed. Truth be told, special teams actually weren’t as bad this week as they have been earlier in the season; Joshua Kalu did block an extra point. That’s a great play! But we still had the awful punt coverage and non-existent return schemes we’ve endured all season long. Grade: D+
Overall: F The loss to Ohio State started with a talent gap. This loss wasn’t due to a talent gap. Iowa outplayed, out executed and completely out coached Nebraska. There’s no excuse for Iowa and Kirk Ferentz to be able to do that to Nebraska. None. Firing Bruce Read is a good start at making the needed changes, but special teams isn’t what lost this game. Mike Riley needs to reevaluate everything because while 9-3 is an improvement over 6-7, more improvement is required.
Think I’m being impatient? Hardly. If Oregon dismisses Mark Helfrich and Brian Kelly leaves Notre Dame, that will mean that five coaches from the last seven national championship games will have been dismissed. (Helfrich 2014, Kelly 2012, Les Miles 2011, Gene Chizek 2010, and Mack Brown 2009) That is the state of college football today. Don’t act rashly, but schools do need to act quickly and proactively.
Elsewhere in College Football
Jim Harbaugh: D Great game plan...but J.T. Barrett had the first down. Shut your yapper.
Minnesota/Nebraska: F Pretending that the Broken Chair Trophy doesn’t exist didn’t exactly help them this weekend.
The Curse of the #BrokenChair Trophy has now cost Nebraska & Minnesota their trophy games this week, after announcing it doesn't exist.— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) November 27, 2016
Hiding the Chair in a broom closet (or even throwing it into a dumpster along with Bruce Read’s special teams manual) isn’t going to make it go away. We’re going to continue to refer to the Broken Chair Trophy here, and I assume the Daily Gopher will as well.
Colorado A. Somehow the Buffies are playing for a Pac-12 title this weekend. Sigh.
Syracuse D Your football team scored more than your ranked basketball team.
That awkward moment when your football team scores more points than your basketball team. Both in losing efforts. On the same day. pic.twitter.com/DNJ8FVszNT— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) November 26, 2016