The Good: A.J. Epenesa, Freshmen Skill Players, Keith Duncan
Let me tell you how many times I recall an Iowa defensive lineman finishing a game with the most team tackles: Zero. I’m sure Adrian Clayborn did it at some point in his career but I couldn’t tell you when (He had nine tackles in the Orange Bowl in case you were curious, second to Pat Angerer’s 10). A.J. Epenesa hulked out against the Cornhuskers, recording 14 total tackles, nine solo, 4.5 TFL and two sacks. Those statistics are nothing short of absurd, especially when coming from a lineman. His constant pressure contributed to Adrian Martinez completing 10/18 passes for a comical 50 yards and holding the quarterback to his third-lowest QBR of the year (lowest came against OSU, second lowest came against…South Alabama?). This could very well of been the final Big Ten game of Eppy’s career and man, if he didn’t go out with a bang.
Tyler Goodson was electric, bouncing back from his subdued outing against Illinois with an explosive performance against a porous Cornhusker run defense. Goodson’s stats by themselves stood out: 13 attempts for 116 yards, 8.9 YPC, long of 55, and a touchdown. What you don’t see on paper is some of the moves he put on those poor Nebraska defenders:
Tyler Goodson is currently making Nebraska players consider quitting football. pic.twitter.com/2qkEXV5o05— Go Iowa Awesome (@IowaAwesome) November 29, 2019
Goodson was sidelined when he was bent awkwardly due to a tackle via his facemask (which wasn’t called) but it didn’t look serious and putting on my Dr. pants I’m willing to bet he’ll be fine by the bowl game. Of note, I am absolutely not a doctor.
Hey, how about Sam LaPorta putting together another nice little game, leading Iowa in receptions with a whopping THREE, for 37 yards, but making the crucial 22-yard grab that set up Duncan for the game winning field goal. LaPorta has emerged as the pass-catching tight end for this team, leading all tight ends in receptions and yardage. He’s only a freshman, so there is plenty of good to come.
Keith Duncan. We get it man. You’re ridiculous.
The Bad: Nate Stanley Until the Final Drive
Remember last year against Minnesota when Stanley was scrambling, looked directly at a defender and then threw the ball at him? He did it again! Watch:
Stanley had one of the weirdest games I’ve ever seen. He was inconsistent, threw that comical pick, completed less than 50% of his passes for 99 yards, and didn’t throw a touchdown. Typically, on the road, Stanley turtles and we all get mad because lol wtf Nate. This time… it was totally different. With 0:32 left on the clock, he completed a long pass to Ragaini (that was wrongly ruled incomplete), completed a long pass to Ihmir Smith-Marsette, and then finished it off with another one to Sam LaPorta. In approximately 20 seconds, Stanley had moved the ball from Iowa’s 26 to Nebraska’s 30 and gave Duncan his chance to win the game.
PS: In fairness to Nate also threw a dime to Tyrone that probably could’ve been a touchdown but Tracy dropped it.
The Ugly: Discipline and Refs
Following up on that postscript, Tracy dropped a couple of passes he shouldn’t have dropped, Mekhi Sargent fumbled when he got stood up (again) and is it recency bias or does Ragaini always seem to “drop” the ball at the worst time? (Drop is in quotations because I maintain he caught that crucial pass but this never would’ve been a problem had he just controlled it to the ground) Iowa was also penalized six times for 49 yards; one of those penalties was running into the kicker that kept a drive alive and another one arguably stalled a drive when Ihmir Smith-Marsette was called for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Were the refs terrible? Hell yeah the refs were terrible. Tyler Goodson was injured via a facemask tackle on the play that ISM got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and they didn’t call it. Further, ISM retaliated, which was bad, but the Nebraska player never got flagged either. Nico caught that ball.