Huskers Fall in Final Seconds
Lincoln - Nebraska rallied from a two-touchdown deficit in the second half and held Iowa to 133 total yards over the final three quarters, but Keith Duncan hit a 48-yard field goal with one second remaining, lifting Iowa to a 27-24 victory over the Huskers on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
It marked the second straight year Iowa won the annual Heroes Trophy game with a last-second field, as the Hawkeyes won their fifth straight game in the border rival series.
Iowa (8-3, 6-3 Big Ten) began its winning drive with 41 seconds remaining in regulation at its 26 yard-line. The Hawkeyes used consecutive passing plays of 22 yards from quarterback Nate Stanley to set up the game-winning field goal.
Nebraska (5-7, 3-6 Big Ten) ends its season for the second straight year after rallying in the second half to tie Iowa, only to fall at the end on a field goal.
Iowa held Nebraska to 284 yards of offense, yet the Huskers were able to overcome a 24-10 halftime deficit.
Nebraska cut Iowa's lead to 24-17 with a touchdown on its second drive of the third quarter. Junior running back Dedrick Mills, who led the Huskers with 94 rushing yards, had rushes of six and nine yards to help the Huskers drive from their 41-yard line to the Iowa 39.
Then freshman quarterback Luke McCaffrey, entering the series at quarterback, lofted a 39-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver JD Spielman, igniting the Memorial Stadium crowd. Spielman had three catches for 34 yards and extended his streak to 33 games with at least one reception.
The Blackshirts responded with a 3-and-out, and Nebraska, with sophomore Adrian Martinez back at quarterback, drove 60 yards in 13 plays for a game-tying touchdown. Martinez converted a key 4th-and-6 play with an 11-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Kade Warner over the middle, and senior running back Wyatt Mazour scored three plays later on a nine-yard run up the middle, forcing a 24-24 tie heading into the fourth quarter.
Nebraska, which held Iowa to seven total yards in the third quarter, and to 17 total yards over the second and third quarters, forced 3-and-outs on Iowa's next two possessions. The Hawkeyes drove to the Nebraska 34 on their next series but pooch punted into the end zone, and used a 30-yard run from running back Mekhi Sargent to get to the Nebraska 33 the next time they had the ball.
But on the next play from scrimmage, senior linebacker Collin Miller forced a Sargent fumble that senior safety Cam Taylor-Britt recovered at the Nebraska 30-yard line with 2:52 remaining in regulation. The Huskers, though, couldn't muster a drive and punted, giving Iowa possession at its 26 yard-line with 41 seconds remaining in regulation, setting up the Hawkeyes' game-winning drive.
Iowa led 24-10 at halftime after scoring three long touchdowns, while Nebraska amassed only 114 yards of total offense, with five plays of negative yardage, all on first down. Iowa, which entered the game averaging 131.7 rushing yards, had 152 yards on the ground after one quarter, but only 73 over the rest of the game.
Iowa receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette scored on a 45-yard run on a reverse play on the Hawkeyes' second play of their second series, and the Hawkeyes jumped in front 7-0 with 11:04 to play in the first quarter.
Nebraska's ensuing drive stalled in Iowa territory, but senior punter Isaac Armstrong pinned the Hawkeyes on their 4-yard line. The Blackshirts then forced a three-and-out, giving Nebraska possession at the Iowa 38-yard line. That led to walk-on Matt Waldoch's 41-yard field goal that cut Iowa's lead to 7-3 with 4:03 remaining in the first quarter.
Iowa responded in two plays, with running back Tyler Goodson busting a 55-yard touchdown run up the middle for a 14-3 lead.
The Hawkeyes drove to the Nebraska 19-yard line on their next series before the Blackshirts bowed up and collected back-to-back plays of negative yardage. Junior defensive lineman Ben Stille had a tackle for a 9-yard loss, and senior defensive lineman Darrion Daniels followed with a tackle for a loss of 3 yards. Junior linebacker JoJo Domann then came up with a third-down tackle of no gain.
Iowa, though, salvaged the drive with a 49-yard field goal by Duncan, tying his career high for a 17-3 lead with 11:37 remaining in the second quarter.
Nebraska went 3-and-out on offense and punted, but on Iowa's second play of its ensuing series, Domann tipped a Stanley pass that Taylor-Britt intercepted and returned 38 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. Nebraska's third defensive touchdown of the season cut Iowa's lead to 17-10.
The momentum swing was short-lived, however, as Smith-Marsette returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown and a 24-10 Iowa lead. The scored was Iowa's first non-offensive touchdown of the season.