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“The Hawks blow up Nebraska”

Iowa running back Akrum Wadley breaks into the open against the Nebraska defense during the Hawkeyes’ 56-14 win over the Cornhuskers Friday, Nov. 24, in Lincoln, Neb. (photos by Brian Ray, hawkeyesports.com)

The headline comes from the words that Gary Dolphin, Iowa’s play-by-play radio announcer, said as time ran out Black Friday in Lincoln.
The Iowa Hawkeyes blew the Huskers out in the second half, breaking a 14-14 halftime tie and scoring 42 unanswered points.
I have been to Lincoln once to see Iowa play Nebraska.
The year was 1980 and one of my homeboys from Moville, Kim Clark, was working in Lincoln and I went over for the weekend to go to the game with him.
The final score… 57-0!
It’s the worst loss I’ve ever seen watching the Hawkeyes since 1970, so when I watched Ivory Kelly-Martin score the final touchdown with 6:34 left in the game and the score was 56-14, I felt liberated.
In 1981, I was in Kinnick Stadium when the Hawks took down the Cornhuskers, who were favored by 17 points, 10-7.
The toughest part of the football season is that when the Hawkeyes lose, it takes a week before the next game.
The Iowa men’s basketball team lost two games in a row last week on consecutive days, but won on the third day.
When they win in football, especially the last regular game of the season, I can savor that until the bowl game.
Where do I start as there were plenty of heroes that won the Heroes Trophy?

Offense

I have to go with the offensive line that has been beaten up every time Iowa loses and praised when they win. No sacks, 313 yards rushing (6.7 per carry) and opening up holes that I could have run through.
“Today we looked a little more like a college line,” said Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz. “I was glad to see that, certainly. Akrum ran the ball well, JB (James Butler) did, too.”
I’ve said a lot about how I like Akrum Wadley.
I think he has stepped up his game by running tough inside this season and has shown leadership on and off the field.
How about 159 yards (8.4 per carry) and three touchdowns? On the third one, a 29-yard run up the middle in the third quarter, he was barely touched.
Akrum has 1,081 rushing yards for the season.
That’s two straight seasons with over 1,000 yards.
Only three other Iowa backs have done that, including Sedrick Shaw, Ladell Betts and Fred Russell.
James Butler finally got his first Iowa touchdown.
The former Illinois prep grew up wanting to play for the Hawks, was a three-year starter for Nevada, graduated in three years and transferred to Iowa.
Graduating in three years to me is the most impressive.
We got to see the future of Iowa running backs as Ivory Kelly-Martin and Toren Young got some clock in the fourth quarter.
Both had touchdowns and Kelly-Martin ran for 90 yards (15.0 yards per carry), including a 57-yarder late in the fourth quarter.
You have to be happy for Noah Fant, a Nebraska native, who is the first Iowa receiver to go for over 100 yards this year.
Noah had three catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns.
Noah broke the record for most touchdowns for a tight end in a season with 10.
The record was held by Dallas Clark and Noah looked a lot like Dallas when he was running down the sideline for a 68-yard score.
Matt VandeBerg had two catches Friday which kept his streak of 31 straight games with a reception alive.
Matt has 133 career receptions, which is the 10th most in program history,
Ihmir Smith-Marsette has had an up-and-down season as a true freshman.
On the first play of the season, Ihmir fumbled on a jet sweep.
The second game of the year, Ihmir made the game-winning catch in an overtime win over Iowa State.
Last Friday in Lincoln after Nebraska scored first, Ihmir caught Iowa’s second kickoff return on the Iowa one-yard-line and stepped out of bounds.
Not to worry, as Iowa promptly drove 99 yards for the tying score.
Ihmir also saved Akrum Wadley when he fumbled going down the sideline.
The ball bounced in the air and Ihmir grabbed it in midair and secured it for the Hawks.
The biggest play he made was the start of the second half when Ihmir caught the kickoff and ran it back 86 yards for the score. There was an illegal block and Iowa had a first and 10 on the Nebraska 22.
Five plays later, Akrum scored his second touchdown from the one.
Nate Stanley finished his first season as a starter throwing for two touchdowns and not getting sacked once.
That gives Nate 25 touchdown passes for the season, which ties him for third all-time for a single season.
James Vandenberg and Ricky Stanzi also had 25.
Chuck Long leads with 27 and Brad Banks had 26.
Not bad company for Nate.
“It wasn’t a work of art in the first half,” said head coach Ferentz. “We put ourselves in a hole a little bit but the way the guys fought back. The third quarter was a real flurry and it was a team effort all the way.”

defense

The Hawkeyes picked off three passes against the Cornhuskers.
Iowa has 19 interceptions for the season, which is the most in the Big Ten and also a school record.
Josey Jewell continues to climb the all-time tackle chart.
The former Decorah prep had eight tackles and has 426 for his career.
Only Brad Quast (435), Abdul Hodge (453), Andre Jackson (465) and Larry Station (492) have more.
Josey also had a tackle for a loss, three pass breakups and an interception.
How about two freshmen stepping in and playing like they’ve been there?
Matt Hankins made his first start with five tackles and one pass breakup.
Geno Stone came in when Miles Taylor went out with an injury and tied Josey with eight tackles.
Iowa held Nebraska to 67 yards (3.2 per carry) rushing and 201 yards passing.
Ben Niemann and Kristian Welch also picked off passes as the defense pitched a shutout in the second half.
Parker Hesse and A.J. Epenesa had sacks as the Iowa defense finished strong.

Special Teams

The punting game is still a little scary, with Colten Rastetter punting twice for a 27.0 average.
The biggest scare came when Colten fumbled a good snap, Nebraska recovered and turned it into the first touchdown.
Miguel Recinos has had a great year as a first-year kicker.
Miguel is 41-41 on extra points, 9-11 on field goals and had 32 touchbacks on 64 kickoffs.
Miguel, a walk-on junior, has one year left.
Matt VandeBerg had two punt returns for 31 yards.

I woke up Saturday morning at 5:30 a.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep because I was still on a high from the Nebraska win. I laid in bed until 6:30 a.m. watching some Iowa highlights. I got up and read the sports page (I didn’t read it after the Purdue loss), then I watched the first quarter of the game I taped and went to the computer to work on this story.
I had a real treat when channel 9.2 showed the 1981 Iowa-Nebraska game at 9 a.m.
The Hawks took a 10-0 lead at half and held the seventh-ranked Cornhuskers to 7 points in the second half.
Mark Bortz, Andre Tippet, Mel Cole, Bobby Stoops and Tracey Crocker led the defense.
Pete Gales, Eddie Phillips and Gordy Bohannon led the offense.
Lou King intercepted a pass with less than two minutes left and Hayden Fry got his first signature win.
What a fun weekend.
It will be interesting who the Hawks play in their bowl game.
A 7-5 record isn’t great, but it’s better than 6-6.