“It was a tale of two halves” is arguably one of the worst platitudes in sports writing, which might explain why I use it so often. That being said, there were two Iowa teams in Lincoln on Saturday afternoon: the first half team and the second half team. The first half team scored 24 points and exerted their will on a hapless Nebraska defense. Let’s start with this brilliant play that featured Nate Stanley…as a LEAD BLOCKER?
Is Nate Stanley the greatest lead blocker in history? We report, you decide! Touchdown Iowa! pic.twitter.com/NvBHZ8YdU9— Go Iowa Awesome (@IowaAwesome) November 29, 2019
Iowa’s ground game was dominating, thanks to some excellent offensive line play and Tyler Goodson, who had the game of his young career. On 13 rushes, he racked up 116 yards and a touchdown. He looked like Neo from the Matrix:
Tyler Goodson is currently making Nebraska players consider quitting football. pic.twitter.com/2qkEXV5o05— Go Iowa Awesome (@IowaAwesome) November 29, 2019
There was a point when it was 17-3 in favor of the Hawkeyes in the second quarter and it looked like Iowa was one defensive stop from the game getting out of hand. Iowa got the defensive stop, got the ball and then…Nate Stanley did this:
Yes, Nate Stanley blatantly stared down a wide receiver, threw the ball at him and it was an expected result. Stanley had uh, a not very good game, going 11/24 for 99 yards with an interception but…he made plays when it mattered and that comes later.
With the Cornhuskers looking to turn the tide, Iowa needed a play and SUDDENLY A WILD SMITH-MARSETTE APPEARS:
This was the first half in a nutshell. When it looked like Nebraska was starting to turn the tide, Iowa counterpunched them right in the face and it all went to hell. It was 24-10 to close out the second and Iowa was firmly in control.
Then the third quarter came, Iowa’s second half team showed up and everything fell apart like Okonkwo was involved. After trading punts, Nebraska put in Ed McCaffrey’s son and as expected, he immediately threw a touchdown, making it 24-17 after the XP.
On Iowa’s next possession, Goodson was pulled awkwardly to the ground on a blown facemask call, resulting in an injury. What’s worse, on the same play, the refs flagged Ihmir Smith-Marsette for unsportsmanlike conduct when he retaliated against a Nebraska player pushing him. Like that, Iowa’s leading rusher was gone and they didn’t even get a flag out of it. And then what happened? Nebraska gashed a tired Iowa defense and tied the game up on a Wyatt Mazour touchdown.
At half it was 24-10 Iowa. One quarter later, it’s 24-24.
Coming out of the quarter break, Iowa’s defense buckled down. A.J. Epenesa was a legitimate problem all game, leading Iowa in tackles with 14, four TFL and two sacks. Jack Koerner, who we’ve been hard on all season, had the best game of his career, making some great tackles and halting a Cornhusker drive with a clutch interception. After giving up two touchdowns in the third quarter, Iowa’s defense forced three straight three and outs and Nebraska punted the ball to Iowa’s 37-yard line with just over three minutes left in the game.
Mekhi Sargent exploded on the first play, rushing 30 yards and immediately getting the Hawkeyes into Nebraska territory. Iowa was sitting pretty and looked like they could bleed the clock to kick a field goal until Sargent put the ball on the turf the next play, with the Huskers recovering. Suddenly, Iowa went from being in a position to win on a last second score to the Huskers having the same opportunity. Fortunately, the Huskers were flagged for an illegal blindside block, stalling a drive and forcing a punt.
With 32 seconds left in the game, this seemed like the type of situation where Kirk Ferentz would be satisfied going to OT. Instead, Kirk, Brian and Nate came out saying YOLO 4 VERTS, throwing a bomb to Nico Ragiani that was absolutely caught and later dropped but the referees got involved and called it incomplete. Following the incompletion, Stanley connected with Ihmir Smith-Marsette for 22 yards, ISM got hit in the head and a flag was thrown for targeting, but the referees got involved and picked the flag up. Then, Stanley connected with Sam LaPorta for another 22 yards, setting Iowa up at Nebraska’s 30-yard line for a game winning field goal.
Going back to what I said earlier, Stanley only threw for 99 yards. 44 of them came on the final drive. He made the plays when it mattered.
With the Hawkeyes needing a 48-yard field goal to win, they went to their Lou Groza candidate Keith Duncan and:
Never a doubt. Despite Matt Millen wanting Nebraska to win, Jim Delany wanting Nebraska to win, the REFS wanting Nebraska to win, Keith Duncan said F all that noise and LETS BLOW SOME KISSES:
KEITH DUNCAN BLOWIN KISSES. IOWA 27, NEBRASKA 24 pic.twitter.com/1LxEGOUyqG— Go Iowa Awesome (@IowaAwesome) November 29, 2019
You just hate to see it.
GO. IOWA. AWESOME.