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By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Senior Miguel Recinos hit a 41-yard game-winning field goal on his final kick inside Kinnick Stadium, sending the University of Iowa football team to a 31-28 Hy-Vee Heroes Game victory over Nebraska on Friday afternoon inside Kinnick Stadium.
The Hawkeyes, who have won four straight meetings over Nebraska, finish the regular season with an 8-4 record.
After seeing a 28-13 fourth-quarter lead wiped away following an 80-yard Husker touchdown drive and game-tying two-point conversion, Iowa took possession at its own 36 with 3:22 to play.
The Hawkeyes started the drive with four Mekhi Sargent rushes for 5, 4, 16, before a negative 1-yard rush set up a second-and-long at the Nebraska 40. Following an incompletion on second down and a 3-yard Sargent run on third down, Iowa faced a fourth-and-8 from the 37-yard line with 42 seconds remaining.
Nebraska called a timeout. Iowa tried drawing the Huskers offsides before calling a timeout of its own.
Iowa’s offense remained on the field and quarterback Nate Stanley delivered, hitting T.J. Hockenson for a 10-yard first-down strike.
“As a competitor you want the ball in your hands in those situations,” said Hockenson. “When they called the play, I was excited and knew that it may come my way. Nate made a great pass and it’s a testimony to the coaching staff for putting us in the right spots.”
Following a four-yard Sargent run to the 23, Recinos made amends for a 37-yard miss earlier in the fourth quarter by splitting the uprights to send Kinnick Stadium into a pandemonium.
“I hit the ball and I knew I hit it well, but with what happened with the last one, I didn’t count my chickens before they hatched,” said Recinos. “I saw it was going to stay on target and I knew at that point. Your instincts just take over at that point.”
The Hawkeyes finished with a 419-400 advantage in total offense with the rushing attack piling up a season-high 266 yards. Sargent posted his second straight 100-yard game, finishing with a career-high 173 yards on 26 attempts and one touchdown.
Sophomore Toren Young added 83 yards on 18 carries and one score.
Stanley finished 16-of-27 for 152 yards and two touchdowns. He completed passes to seven different receivers with Hockenson leading the way with five receptions for 54 yards. Sargent and sophomore Brandon Smith had touchdown receptions.
Sophomore Matt Hankins and senior Jake Gervase tied for the team lead with 10 tackles to pace the defense, while junior Anthony Nelson finished with eight tackles, including two sacks, two tackles for loss, and a quarterback hurry.
Junior Michael Ojemudia forced the game’s lone turnover when he intercepted Adrian Martinez early in the fourth quarter. It was his third interception of the season and his second in as many weeks.
Martinez finished 26-of-38 for 260 yards with two touchdowns and he led the Huskers’ rushing attack with 76 yards on 17 carries with one touchdown.
QUOTING HEAD COACH KIRK FERENTZ
“It was a hard-fought win, a physical, tough game. We knew it was going to be a tough game. We were playing a team that has a lot of good players and is very well-coached. They’ve had a lot of momentum these past six weeks. We knew there was going to be nothing easy about this thing.
“The bottom line is, games get decided on the field. It’s all about performance, what guys do out on the field. I thought our guys did a good job starting Sunday, getting ready, and they prepared well all week.
“They showed up on kickoff for the 12th time this season, they’ve showed up, played and competed. Today we had to compete right to the very end. It was really a tremendous outcome.
“I am really happy for our seniors. I can’t say enough about them. I’ve been talking about them all season and I feel even stronger now. Maybe as much as anything, for a moment like at the end there with Miguel, to me it represents what’s great about sports. It’s fitting that he was a senior. He had just had one of his more disappointing moments of his career minutes before. Then he came out and nailed that field goal at the end. I am really pleased for him. I think that’s representative of the whole senior class.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Iowa scored a touchdown on the game’s first drive for the fourth time this season, moving 79 yards over 11 plays. Stanley hit Hockenson for a 25-yard completion on an early third-and-8 before the Hawkeyes diced the Huskers’ defense. Stanley completed a perfectly thrown 15-yard touchdown pass to Smith in the corner of the end zone, giving the Hawkeyes a 7-0 lead.
- Nebraska answered on its first drive with a 12-play, 81-yard touchdown drive. Martinez ran for 18 yards to the Iowa 24 before missing a wide open Jack Stoll in the end zone on the next play. Martinez moved the Huskers into the red zone with a 17-yard completion to Stanley Morgan, Jr., before hitting Stoll on a screen pass for a 4-yard touchdown, tying the game at seven with 5:55 left in the first quarter.
- Iowa made it 2-for-2 with a 6 1/2 minute scoring drive that covered 85 yards over 13 plays. The Hawkeye rushing attack did the heavy lifting on the series with Young and Sargent combining for 49 yards on eight attempts. After hitting Nick Easley on a 9-yard slant to the 18, Iowa ran on four consecutive plays with Young scoring on a 4-yard touchdown run to give the Hawkeyes a 14-7 lead with 14:21 left in the first half.
- Nebraska went 65 yards on eight plays to cut the Iowa lead to 14-10. Martinez completed a 35-yard pass to Maurice Washington to the 18 before the Hawkeyes stopped three Husker rushes, forcing a 27-yard Barret Pickering field goal with 11:30 left.
- Iowa extended its lead to 21-10 with an 85-yard drive that spanned 7:16. The Hawkeyes converted a third-and-7 with a called quarterback run from Stanley and a fourth-and-3 when Stanley hit Easley for a 6-yard gain to the 32. Four rushes later, Sargent scored from 15-yards out.
- Nebraska closed out the first half with a 46-yard field goal, moving 46 yards over eight plays in 45 seconds. Martinez hit Morgan, Jr., for 22 yards to start the drive. Pickering’s attempt from 51-yards fell short, but he got another chance when Riley Moss was flagged for offsides. His second try — from 46 yards — was good, sending the game into the half with the Hawkeyes leading 21-13.
- Iowa’s defense force a three-and-out on Nebraska’s first drive of the second half and the Hawkeyes turned a short field into their fourth touchdown. Smith went up over Lamar Jackson along the Hawkeye sideline for the big play — a 21-yard completion to the 19. Sargent followed with runs of 5 and 9 yards before catching a 5-yard touchdown pass for his first career receiving touchdown. Iowa led 28-13 with 9:13 left in the third quarter.
- After taking over at its own 2 following a failed Iowa fake field goal attempt, the Huskers picked up their first first down of the second half on a 5-yard Luke Gifford run on a fake punt. It was the start of a 14-play, 98-yard touchdown drive. Nebraska converted two fourth downs on the drive — on a Martinez rush for 3 yards and an 11-yard completion to Morgan, Jr., to the 28. On the next play, Martinez hit Washington for a 28-yard touchdown, making the score 28-20 with 13:57 to play.
- Nebraska took over at its own 20 with 7:54 left following a 37-yard missed field goal by Recinos. The Huskers followed with a 13-play drive that was a heavy dosage of Martinez both on the ground and through the air.
- Martinez opened the drive with an 18-yard pass to Stoll and 13-yarder to Morgan, Jr., to midfield. Back-to-back Martinez rushes of 14 and 7 yards brought the Huskers into the red zone and he scored from 3-yards out to pull the Huskers to 28-26.
- Martinez bought himself time on the two-point conversion, rolling to his left before reversing course and firing a bullet to Kade Warner, who withstood a Geno Stone hit to get a foot down and tie the game at 28.
- Stanley threw for 152 yards, passing the 5,000 yard mark for his career. He is the ninth player in program history to have 5,000 career passing yards (5,137).
- Stanley threw two touchdowns, raising his season total to 23, the sixth highest single-season total in school history. He has 49 career touchdown passes, fourth all-time in school history (Chuck Long 74; Drew Tate 61; Ricky Stanzi 56). Stanley’s 49 touchdown passes over the last two seasons tie for the most ever in school history over a two-year span. Long tossed 49 touchdown passes from 1984 (22) to 1985 (27).
- Stanley was 1-2 for 10 yards on Iowa’s final drive. It is the third game-winning drive of Stanley’s career (at Iowa State in 2017, vs. Boston College in 2017).
- Recinos scored seven points today (four PATs, one FG), raising his career total to 171, 14th all-time. He passed David Hudson (166), Marvin McNutt (168), and Marshall Koehn (170) today on the all-time list.
- Iowa had three sacks, raising its season total to 34, its highest single-season total since recording 34 sacks in 2003. Junior Anthony Nelson had two sacks, raising his season total 9.5. Sophomore A.J. Epenesa had one sack, raising his season total 9.5. The 9.5 sacks are the highest single-season total by a Hawkeye since defensive lineman Mike Daniels had nine sacks in 2011.
- Hockensen had five receptions for 54 yards. He has career 1,037 career receiving yards. He is the 40th player in program history to reach 1,000 career receiving yards.
- Iowa has 16 interceptions over its last eight games. Entering today, Iowa forced 17 turnovers in the second half of games this season, most in the FBS.
- Iowa had 143 rushing yards in the first half, its highest total since rushing for 187 against Nebraska in 2016. Today is the third time this season where Iowa had 20+ minutes of possession in the first half (also UNI and Maryland games).
- Iowa scored at least 30 points for the seventh time this season. The last time Iowa scored 30-plus points in more than seven games was 2015 (8).
- The 2018 senior class recorded 23 conference wins over the last four seasons, tied for the third most by any senior class under Ferentz. The 2005 senior class won 25 Big Ten games, the 2004 senior class won 24, and the 2016 class won 23.
ON THE HORIZON
Iowa learns its postseason destination Sunday, Dec. 2.