Black (and gold) Friday Iowa 38 - Nebraska 17
By Don Lund
Back in August, I wrote a preview of the Hawkeye football team and predicted if Iowa would be favored or underdogs in every football game.
That means whoever I picked as favorites, I thought that team would win.
I looked back at my predictions and I was wrong on seven of my picks.
The last line of my story was, “if things fall right, 8-4 is possible, if not… you tell me?”
I’ve been told that even a blind dog finds an acorn.
The Hawkeyes played the Cornhuskers last Friday at Lincoln for the Heroes game, and boy did Iowa have a lot of heroes.
You start with the whole defense, throw in the offensive line, Mark Weisman, Kevonte Martin-Manley. C.J. Fiedorowicz, Jordan Canzeri, Jake Rudock, C.J. Beathard and the special teams.
That’s a lot of heroes.
I was at the game in 1981 which was the last time Iowa beat Nebraska.
The score was 10-7 and Iowa’s defense was spectacular as was punter Reggie Roby, who averaged 55 yards a punt.
I have to start with the defense this week and they set the tone early.
Anthony Hitchens picked off a pass on Nebraska’s first possession and even though Iowa didn’t score, it was a sign of things to come.
James Morris got a pick on the Huskers’ second possession. Iowa had the ball on Nebraska’s 25. Seven plays later Jake found C.J. for Iowa’s first score.
What else can you say about James Morris, Anthony Hitchens and Christian Kirksey?
James had 10 tackles, a sack, four tackles for loss, a forced fumble and an interception.
“James Morris is just a model for student athletes,” said Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz. “He stands for everything good about college athletics. The way he attacks his studies, the kind of teammate he is and the way he plays out there on the field.”
James was named National Defensive Performer and National Linebac ker of the Week by the College Football Performance Awards.
Anthony had seven tackles, a pass breakup, a quarterback hurry and an 18-yard interception.
Christian led the team with 11 tackles, a sack, three tackles for a loss and a forced fumble.
Christian was named national Defensive Player of the Week by the Walter Camp Football Foundation.
That forced fumble came in the fourth quarter with 10 minutes left in the game and Iowa leading 24-17.
Louis Trinca-Pasat recovered on the Nebraska 39.
C. J. Beathard was in for an injured Jake.
C.J. called an audible on first down and Jordan Canzeri went around left end for a 37-yard gain to the Husker 2.
Mark Weisman took it in and Iowa led, 31-17.
The bad news is James, Anthony and Christian are all seniors.
The good news is we get to see them play in one more game… in a bowl.
“They’ve been setting the tempo for our team for some time now,” said coach Ferentz. “They are playing great on the field, but the leadership they’ve been giving us, as have all of our seniors, but that group, their tight and they played a great game.”
It’s a lot of fun to watch Phil Parker, Iowa’s defensive coordinator, dial up blitz after blitz.
The Nebraska quarterback was sacked twice, hurried three times and hit so many times that he was probably soaking in ice water all night after the game.
Linebacker coaches Jim Reid and LeVar Woods have to take a little credit for helping the linebackers play at a higher level.
I can’t forget defensive line coach Reece Morgan.
The Cornhuskers came into the game averaging 233 yards per game on the ground. They had 89 against Iowa.
The Huskers averaged 433 yards per game in total offense. They had 288 against the Hawks.
It all starts up front and Brandon Scherff and company got the job done.
Mark Weisman only had 79 yards but scored two touchdowns. The first one he set up by running through three Huskers on a 10-yard gain that got him to the Nebraska 1. He was untouched on the touchdown run around the left end… Brandon’s side.
Mark finished the season with 937 yards, a 4.5 yard average and seven touchdowns.
Jordan Canzeri had the best run of the day on a sweep left and a 37-yard gain that set up Mark’s second score in the fourth quarter.
Both Kevonte and C.J. had nice touchdown catches.
Jake Rudock was 9-15 with two touchdown passes before he hurt his knee in the fourth quarter.
Jake should be ready for the bowl game. He finished the season with 18 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions.
I liked how C.J. Beathard stepped in when Jake went down.
The Hawks were only leading 24-17 at the time and C.J. took Iowa down for its final two scores.
The last touchdown was a thing of beauty as C.J. faked a handoff to Mark going right, then rolled on a naked bootleg left for a 4 yard touchdown and the Hawks’ final score.
One of the most rewarding plays of the day came in the third quarter with Iowa leading, 17-10.
Nebraska had a fourth and 3 on their own 32.
The Huskers tried a fake punt and the Hawks stopped it.
Christian Kirksey made the big stop.
On the first play from scrimmage, Jake found Kevonte for a 24-yard score. Iowa led 24-10 and “uncle mo” (momentum) was with the Hawks.
Connor Kornbrath punted seven times including three inside the 20 and two inside the 2.
Connor averaged 40 yards per punt.
How about Mike Meyer?
Mike is the second all-time leading scorer for Iowa, trailing only Nate Kaeding and he has made 120 straight extra points. That’s the third best all-time in the Big Ten.
“The most pleasing thing is to watch these guys grow,” said the head coach. “Watch them work and improve. That’s what this game is all about.”
This is one of those seasons that as a fan, you want a couple of more games.
An 8-4 record sure sounds better than 4-8.
Iowa will go bowling, but where?
I don’t care.
All I know is that it will be against a good team, but I have a feeling the Iowa Hawkeyes will be ready.