Nov. 27, 2015
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By JAMES ALLAN
LINCOLN, Neb. — Twelve and oh.
The third-ranked University of Iowa football team completed its undefeated regular season, downing Nebraska, 28-20, to claim the Hy-Vee Heroes Trophy on Friday afternoon in Memorial Stadium.
The Hawkeyes are 4-for-4 in the trophy games this season.
“I told them I wasn’t sure what to say because I’ve never been 12-0 before,” said UI head coach Kirk Ferentz. “It is an unbelievable accomplishment. This group is tough-minded and they have been since the season began. All in all, it was a special day and achievement.
“It was a hard fought game, and we knew it was going to be in a tough environment against a tough team. I am excited about getting the victory and am excited for our players.”
After rushing for 52 yards on 15 attempts in the first half, Iowa’s ground game churned out 101 on the first two possessions of the second half… on three carries. The result was a 28-17 lead with 6:43 remaining in the third quarter.
The Huskers outgained Iowa, 433-250, in the game, had the ball for nearly 13 more minutes (36:06-23:54) and held Iowa without a third-down conversion (0-for-9). But during the course of the game, the Huskers couldn’t get away from themselves.
Iowa’s defense picked off Husker quarterback Tommy Armstrong, Jr., four times, and Nebraska shot itself in the foot, getting flagged eight times for 95 yards. Nebraska native Cole Fisherand senior Jordan Lomax led the defense with 11 tackles apiece. Fisher, Josey Jewell, Parker Hesse, and Greg Mabin all had interceptions.
Beathard managed the game for the Hawkeyes, moving to 13-0 as Iowa’s starting quarterback. He completed 9-of-16 attempts for 97 yards and one touchdown. Junior Jordan Canzeri rushed for 140 yards on 17 attempts with two touchdowns, and George Kittle had two receptions for 35 yards and a score.
Nebraska took momentum into halftime, using a 39-yard Drew Brown field goal to trim the deficit to 14-10. The Huskers got the ball coming out of the break, but Iowa’s defense forced a three-and-out, and special teams set up a short field.
Junior Desmond King started with a 26-yard punt return into Nebraska territory and a personal foul penalty on Husker punter Sam Foltz moved Iowa to the 33. Canzeri ran four yards on first down before bursting through for a 29-yard touchdown run on a zone read to give Iowa a 21-10 lead.
Nebraska followed with its best offensive possession of the game, moving 75 yards over 11 plays. The Huskers methodically moved down field with the big play coming on a 26-yard completion to Jordan Westerkamp to the Iowa 23. Armstrong ran for 11 yards on third down to the 2 before Imani Cross bull-dozed his way in from 2-yards out, making the score 21-17.
The Huskers nearly caught a break, forcing a fumble on Riley McCarron’s 21-yard kick return, but King pounced on the loose ball, giving Iowa possession at its own 32. Cue Canzeri.
On the first play of the series, the senior took the handoff over the left end, burst outside, and out ran the Huskers for a 68-yard touchdown run , pushing Iowa’s lead to 28-17. The carry pushed Canzeri over 2,000 yards for his career.
Nebraska possessed the ball for a majority of the second half, and Iowa’s defense bent, but never broke.
Mabin intercepted Armstrong at the 4 on the Huskers’ final drive of the third quarter, and Nebraska had consecutive turnovers on downs on its first two possessions of the fourth quarter, the second coming at the Iowa 19 when the Armstrong attempted to connect on a fade route in the end zone on a fourth-and-1. Jewell picked off Armstrong a fourth time on the first play of a Nebraska series that started at midfield with 4:27 to play.
The Huskers final points came on a 12-play, 56-yard drive that started at their own 20. The methodical drive ended with a Brown field goal that made it a one possession game with 1:17 remaining, but Iowa covered the on-side kick, and went into a victory formation to close out the win.
Iowa took advantage of two Nebraska personal foul penalties en route to the game’s first score. On second and 10, the Huskers’ Freedom Akinmoladun forced a Beathard fumble, where Nebraska recovered at the Iowa 37. The call was negated on an illegal hands to the face penalty, moving Iowa to midfield.
The chains kept moving following a 12-yard burst from Canzeri to the 39 and a roughing the passer call on Maliek Collins brought Iowa to the 24. The big play on the series came on second-and-15 (following an illegal chop block whistled on the Hawkeyes) when Krieger Coble went 19 yards on a tight end throwback to the 10.
Beathard rolled out to his right on the next play before finding Kittle for a 10-yard touchdown pass, giving Iowa a 7-0 lead with 13:50 left in the second quarter. Iowa moved 66 yards on six plays.
Nebraska capitalized on a muffed punt from King to answer. Mick Stoltenberg recovered the muff on the Iowa 31, and the Huskers scored three plays later. On second-and-12, Armstrong connected with Cethan Carter for 25 yards on a delayed route to the 8. Cross scored from 4 yards out, tying the game at 7 with 10:18 left in the half.
The field position game led to Iowa’s go-ahead score. After Marshall Koehn pinned Nebraska at its own 9 yard line with a rugby style punt, the Hawkeyes got a defensive touchdown to make the score 14-7. On second-and-8 from the 11, safety Miles Taylor came on a blitz, forcing Armstrong to dump the ball to Terrell Newby in the flat.
Hesse tipped and intercepted the ball at the 4 before strolling into the end zone for his first career touchdown. It was Iowa’s fourth defensive touchdown this season.
Nebraska scored the final points of the first half, executing in its two-minute offense. The Huskers moved 59 yards in six plays, highlighted by consecutive completions of 27 and 20 yards to Carter to the Iowa 25. Drew Brown connected on a 39-yard field goal into the wind, making the score 14-10 at the half.
The Hawkeyes (12-0) return to action Dec. 5 in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship game. The Hawkeyes will face either Michigan State, Ohio State, or Michigan.