It was a season to forget for Nebraska and its fans. Saturday’s 15-14 last-minute loss to Wisconsin was the final punch in the gut.
But 1 final opportunity is on the post-Thanksgiving table for the Huskers. A trip to Iowa City on Black Friday and a chance to end a 7-game sled against Iowa and deny the Hawkeyes a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game.
Interim head coach Mickey Joseph will probably coach his last game in that capacity. An announcement about the new coach could be made as early as this week. And whether Joseph remains on the staff should be decided quickly. Meanwhile, he has a short week to prepare Nebraska to face off against a team from Iowa who clinched a 13-10 win over Minnesota.
Kirk Ferentz’s Hawkeyes have dominated the series lately. Seven straight wins over their West rivals and wins in 8 of their last 9. Iowa have won 5 straight wins at Memorial Stadium and have scored 26 points or more in each of their last 9 contests.
Nebraska have lost the last 7 games in various ways. From FG at the last second to flaring on the ground. Let’s take a quick look at the last 7 meetings and how each has played out in favor of the Hawkeyes.
#3 Iowa 28, Nebraska 20 – Nov 27, 2015 – Lincoln
After a disappointing season, Nebraska needed a win to gain bowl eligibility in their final game. The Hawkeyes went undefeated and finished 3rd in the country.
Jordan Canzeri rushed for 140 yards and 2 TDs, leading Iowa to his first regular season 12-0. The Hawkeyes’ defense, a mainstay all season, beat Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. 4 times.
The Hawkeyes fell 16-13 to Michigan State the following week in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Iowa 40, Nebraska 10 – November 25, 2016 – Iowa City
Iowa pounced on the Huskers with a physical ground play that saw two players go for 100 yards that day.
LeShun Daniels led with 158 yards and 2 points while Akrum Wadley added 105 yards and a TD. The Nebraska defense was no match for the Hawkeyes’ downhill game, and the normally competitive affair quickly turned one-sided.
Iowa 56, Nebraska 14 – November 24, 2017 – Lincoln
In Mike Riley’s last game as Nebraska coach, the Huskers were embarrassingly routed in front of a packed Lincoln home stadium.
The Hawkeyes opened up a 14-all game in the 3rd quarter with a 28-0 advantage during that period. Wadley had his second straight 100-yard game against Nebraska for 159 yards and 3 TDs. Late as the game went haywire, the Nebraska fans quietly poured out and all that was left were the chants of “Let’s Go Hawks” echoing from the stands.
Iowa 31, Nebraska 28 – November 23, 2018 – Iowa City
Scott Frost’s inaugural season was one of his best chances to defeat Ferentz. But it shouldn’t be.
Once again, Iowa held off a fourth-quarter rally by the Huskers behind a deadly charge. Mekhi Sargent went for 173 yards and a score. Toren Young added 83 rush yards and another TD.
Nebraska bounced back from a 28-13 deficit to level the game, but Iowa’s Miguel Recinos hit through the game-winning 41-yard FG on time.
As in years past, the physicality of Iowa’s offensive line opened holes and paved the way to victory.
#17 Iowa 27, Nebraska 24 – Nov. 29, 2019 – Lincoln
Keith Duncan’s 48-yard FG made the winning points with 1 second left.
The Hawkeyes saw their 24-10 halftime lead evaporate after two NU touchdowns in the 3rd quarter. But Duncan left no doubt, splitting the posts with his kick to extend Iowa’s winning streak to 5 over Nebraska.
Tyler Goodson rushed for 116 yards and a TD, making it the fifth straight season that a Hawkeyes back against the Huskers surpassed the century mark.
#24 Iowa 26, Nebraska 20 – Nov 27, 2020 – Iowa City
Duncan played hero again, kicking a pair of FGs in the 4th quarter to break a 20 all tie.
Goodson rushed for the second straight year for 100 yards and rushed for 111 with 30 carries. Spencer Petras threw for 193 yards and a TD.
Nebraska had its chances. Wan’Dale Robinson had a combined 117 yards rushing and receiving. Adrian Martinez shot 18-on-20. But a 4th quarter, in which the Huskers were repeatedly slowed down by the Iowa defense, proved fatal in the end.
#16 Iowa 28, Nebraska 21 – Nov 26, 2021 – Lincoln
Perhaps Nebraska’s best chance to end the tumble — especially after taking a 21-9 lead after three quarters at home.
But things unraveled. Quickly. Starting with a blocked punt, that resulted in 14 yards for a TD. Then a backup. Momentum had swung big time.
When Spencer Petras scored with a 1-yard QB sneak 3 minutes from time, it added up to a 19-0 advantage for Iowa in the final third. A complete flop as things had developed in the first 3 periods.
Goodson rushed for 156 yards for 23 carries, his third straight 100-yard game against the Huskers.
What’s that supposed to mean?
Plain and simple: Iowa is the better team. better program. And that in the last decade.
The Hawkeyes are much better up front. That’s obvious considering they’ve had a 100+ yard back rush in each of their last 7 games. They believe in their system and play according to it. Nebraska couldn’t stop it.
Iowa also hangs its hat on defense. It shows. For the past 7 years, the Hawkeyes have gotten stops when they need them. Nebraska hasn’t. It’s a painful tale for Huskers fans to hear. But it is true.
Turnovers and specialty teams have also favored the Hawkeyes. Blocked punts, interceptions, game-winning field goals. They call it. It’s gone Iowa’s way.
Any chance Nebraska can flip the script on Friday? Possibly. But unlikely.
There is no question that Joseph’s team will play hard for him. They’ve had the whole season since he took over in September. But there is this huge gap in something important. Talent. And playing hard will only get you so far.
Nebraska has been suspended in too many areas this season. As in previous years, Iowa should dominate up front. The Hawks’ defense is a wall. Bad news for the Huskers.
It’s worth keeping an eye on Friday’s game. Iowa is just one win away from an unlikely West Division title. Who would have thought that in mid-October. But here we are.
And Nebraska playing spoiler is all that gets in the way.