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Report Card: Iowa Hawkeyes 27, Huskers 24

Close... but close doesn’t count in college football.

NCAA Football: Iowa at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Some Nebraska fans (and media) will argue that there hasn’t been any progress made in Scott Frost’s two seasons in Lincoln.

They are wrong.

There is clear progress almost across the board. Want to argue that there hasn’t been enough progress in two years? We can have that discussion; in fact, you’re probably right. Iowa started off the game doing the same things they’ve done to Nebraska the last few years. Gash left, gash right, gash right up the middle. 152 yards rushing in the first quarter, taking the Hawkeyes to 1,151 yards rushing in 13 quarters against the Huskers. But after Nate Stanley’s four yard quarterback sneak early in the second quarter, the Blackshirts seemed to hit that “enough-is-enough” moment. Zero yards rushing the rest of the second quarter, and only eight in the third quarter. Frankly, Iowa’s offense was stuck in neutral most of the fourth quarter as well until Mekhi Sargent busted a 30 yard run with three minutes left.

Frankly, Nebraska had the momentum most of the second half as the Huskers tied the game up in the third. But poor field position limited Nebraska’s ability to maintain the momentum for most of the fourth quarter. I still thought Nebraska was going to have the edge if the game went to overtime, but until Mike Williams was penalized on that Luke McCaffrey scramble, I agreed with the plan to be aggressive and try to win the game there. At that point, Scott Frost had to choose between taking the game to overtime or take the risk of trying to forcing the issue in regulation. Frost seemed to choose neither, much like Mike Riley’s choice of a run/pass sweep against Illinois in 2015. Run the ball twice up the middle, and off to overtime we go. Why run Martinez, except possibly to take a knee? Why call a quarterback run going wide that could go out of bounds?

Yes, Nebraska had their fourth losing season in the last five. But four games this season were decided in the closing seconds of the game, with the Huskers coming short in three of them. And let’s be honest, the Big Ten’s West division is stronger this season than it’s ever been.

With that, here’s this season’s final report card; as always, your feedback is welcome in the comments.

QB: Let’s be honest; it was a tough day to throw the ball; Stanley’s passing stats were even worse than Adrian Martinez’s. And unlike Martinez, he had a pretty clean pocket to work with. I’m not as down on Martinez as some are as I don’t know how much injuries limited him this season. I’d love to a battle between Luke McCaffrey and Martinez develop, because I suspect both are better pair of quarterbacks than we’ve seen at Nebraska in over twenty years. But I don’t think it’s as clear as some fans think it is. On that scramble on Nebraska’s final drive, McCaffrey ignored a wiiiiiiide open JD Spielman to take off running for a four yard gain. Complete that pass, and who knows what happens next. Grade: C-

I-Back: I though Dedrick Mills had a solid game in the third quarter; unfortunately, field position limited Nebraska’s offensive flexibility in the fourth quarter. Mills bears the distinction of being the only Nebraska player who could successfully execute a swing pass against Iowa. Grade: B

Wide Receivers: Nebraska’s biggest problem offensively this season was with the receiver corps. JD Spielman was Nebraska’s most reliable option, but after that, it was a crapshoot. Wan’Dale Robinson stopped being much of an option when Frost decided to use him as an I-back. Kanawai Noa was out this week, which left Nebraska with Kade Warner and three freshmen. And for the most part, nobody was able to get open. Or block, for that matter on those swing passes. Bottom line is that receiver play was a big reason why Nebraska’s offense was one-dimensional in this game. Grade: D-

Offensive Line: Pretty sure you’ll be seeing plenty of Nebraska highlights during coverage of the NFL Draft. Or should I say “lowlights” as they’ll all focus on Nebraska’s feeble attempts to block AJ Epenesa. When a defense end leads with 14 tackles (five for a loss), it’s a really bad game for your offensive line. Look for Epenesa to earn Big Ten defensive player of the week honors. In fairness, Epenesa was already going to be an early first day pick in the draft, but this was a Suh-like domination up front. Grade: D

Defensive Line: It took a couple of years, but the defensive line certainly transformed itself into a strength of the team. It still could use an elite pass rusher, but the line held it’s own against an Iowa offensive line that’ll probably send a couple of guys to the NFL. Darrion Daniels went out in style with six tackles, while Ben Stille started the defensive turnaround by blowing up Iowa’s attempt at a jet sweep. Grade: B

Linebackers: Collin Miller thwarted Iowa’s first attempt to win the game late in the game by forcing a Mekhi Sargent fumble. But after a rough first quarter, the linebackers had a decent three quarters. Grade: C+

Secondary: Bad run fits made for an awful first quarter, but JoJo Domann’s pass deflection to Cam Taylor-Britt got Nebraska back into the game. However, Nebraska’s failures to stop Iowa’s passing game in the final minute make it difficult to give a grade higher than a C-.

Special Teams: For the most part, this was a clusterfool all season long and this week was no exception. Fielding a punt inside the five yard line? Trying to return the opening kickoff of the second half? And not pooching the kickoff after the Taylor-Britt interception, resulting in yet another touchdown return? On the bright side, former soccer player Matt Waldoch drilled his 41 yard attempt. Grade: F

Overall: D+ Still too many mistakes made by this team; avoid one, and Nebraska likely wins this game. Might be the story of the season, because Nebraska was good enough to be at least 6-6 in 2019... and maybe 8-4, if they played their cards correctly.


How would you grade the Huskers for their 5th straight loss to Iowa?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    A - Love it! I’m an Iowa troll!
    (115 votes)
  • 3%
    B - Basically just as good as the Hawkeyes
    (28 votes)
  • 15%
    C - Mostly meh. Just like the Hawkeyes
    (127 votes)
  • 34%
    D - Didn’t win. Again.
    (291 votes)
  • 32%
    F - Effffff this season.
    (273 votes)
834 votes total Vote Now

Elsewhere in College Football

Minnesota: D The clock struck midnight on the Gophers’ Cinderella season.

Ohio State: A Dominant as usual.

Northwestern: A Did the Wildcats finally find a quarterback?

B1G Rivalry Trophies: A After watching teams celebrate victories with kitschy trophies that are just plain fun this weekend, can the Big Ten tell Minnesota and Nebraska to re-embrace the Broken Chair as that series moves to Thanksgiving weekend next season?

Minnesota vs. Wisconsin Big Ten football
“Paul Bunyan’s Axe” - Minnesota vs. Wisconsin
Photo by Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via Getty Images
NCAA Football: Indiana at Purdue
“Olde Oaken Bucket” - Purdue vs. Indiana
Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

So, tell me the Chair doesn’t match those scenes?