LINCOLN, Neb. – No. 16 Iowa scored the final 22 points of the game to rally and upend Nebraska, 28-21, at Memorial Stadium on Friday. The Hawkeyes retain possession of the Heroes Trophy by virtue of their seventh straight victory over the Cornhuskers. Friday was also Iowa’s fifth consecutive victory in Lincoln, dating back to 2013, something that only the University of Texas has done over the last 70 years.
The win, Iowa’s fourth straight to finish the regular season, moved the Hawkeyes to 10-2 overall and 7-2 in the Big Ten. Iowa clinched at least a share of the Big Ten West Division title. The Hawkeyes would win the West Division outright and represent the West Division in the Big Ten Football Championship Game next Saturday in Indianapolis, if Minnesota beats Wisconsin tomorrow in Minneapolis. The Hawkeyes last claimed a division title in 2015 when they finished the regular season with an unblemished 8-0 record in Big Ten play.
RB Tyler Goodson rushed for a career-best 156 yards on 23 attempts, while the combination of quarterbacks Alex Padilla and Spencer Petras completed 13-of-27 passes for 178 yards.
Iowa struggled to find the end zone on its first eight offensive possessions, settling for four Caleb Shudak field goals through the first 54 minutes of the contest.
Nebraska led Iowa 21-6 with 5:54 remaining in the third quarter. Shudak kicked his third field goal of the game with 27 seconds left in the third period. Iowa didn’t gain complete momentum until Henry Marchese blocked a Nebraska punt and Kyler Fisher returned the punt 14 yards for a special teams score.
Iowa erased a 12-point fourth quarter deficit (trailed 21-9), its largest fourth-quarter deficit in a win since trailing by 14 points against Pittsburgh in 2011. The last double-digit fourth quarter deficit erased by Iowa in a win was in 2014 (trailed Ball State 13-3 entering the fourth).
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Linebackers Jack Campbell and Seth Benson led the Hawkeye defense, recording 16 and 10 tackles, respectively.
“It’s a good feeling,” said Zach VanValkenburg. “It was obviously a victory from the jaws of defeat, but we kept fighting. We never lost faith that we were going to come out with a victory.”
TE Sam LaPorta (61 yards) and WR Charlie Jones (31 yards) each caught three passes.
Iowa has won 19 conference games over the last three seasons, the most successful three-year stretch since Iowa won 20 conference games from 2002-04. Iowa has won at least six conference games in three straight years for the first time under Kirk Ferentz (19 wins). The last time Iowa won at least six conference games in three straight seasons was 1981-83 (19 wins).
Iowa has won 10 games or more for the seventh time under head coach Kirk Ferentz (2002, 2003, 2004, 2009, 2015, 2019, 2021).
QUOTING COACH FERENTZ
“I am really proud of our football team. It was a gutty, determined game they played, and they have been doing this all season long.
It was a tough week this week. We had a few challenges. Our medical staff gets a couple bouquets for the work they did right up to game time today. I have been saying it’s tough to win in the Big Ten. It always has been, it always will be. This was no exception. Nebraska has played just everybody on the schedule tough. You look at their losses, they’re heartbreaking, and this was no different.
Special teams once again were huge for us. We came out with three field goals and then just like last week with the kick return, the punt block for the touchdown today was huge. Henry Marchese was right in the middle of both those. Last week we had a huge block to spring Charlie [Jones] up the sideline, and today being involved in that. I think it’s a representative of our football team, a guy who hasn’t started a down offensively or defensively, but has been such a huge contributor on special teams for us and also does a great job on the scout-teams during the week helping the guys. I am really proud of him and proud of a lot of guys. I could name a lot of guys like that, the value and how important they are.
I’m happy about our offensive line, the way they’ve developed, especially the last couple weeks. Both sides of the ball, I’ve been saying, we are young. You see some guys, the line, got more traction today. I think they’re growing. We have a lot of young guys making contributions and that’s definitely helpful.
Obviously, Tyler Goodson had a big day. He had a big play in the fourth quarter, and then finished with 156 yards. That is fantastic and helps us be victorious, too.
All that being said, I have been saying it’s a 12-game season. That’s why you wait until the end to evaluate. We still have got some more football ahead of us, so we’ll figure all that out whenever it goes. But it is a special year anytime you win 10 games playing in this conference. I am really proud of our guys.
Go back to three weeks ago today, Andre Tippet talked to our guys. They were back for the ‘81 reunion. He talked about the resilience, the grit of the ‘81 team, and the camaraderie they had. I would say this team possesses those traits, too.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Nebraska took the opening kickoff and drove 75 yards in 12 plays to take an early 7-0 advantage. The Huskers converted a 4th-and-1 near midfield to extend the drive and QB Logan Smothers scored seven plays later on a 2-yard rush.
- Iowa got on the board in its first drive of the second quarter. After the Hawkeye defense forced its second straight 3-and-out, the Hawkeyes moved the ball 27 yards into field goal range and Caleb Shudak kicked a 51-yard field goal, matching his career long.
- The Huskers posted their second 75-yard touchdown drive, amassing 64 yards on the ground, punctuated by 24-yard rush by Smothers to the Iowa 5-yard line. Jacquez Yant rushed up the middle for a 1-yard score to increase their lead.
- The Hawkeyes closed the first-half scoring with an eight-play, 45-yard drive that culminated with a Shudak 48-yard field goal.
- Nebraska’s lead swelled to 21-6 after the Huskers capitalized on an Iowa fumble inside the red zone, driving 94 yards for its third touchdown. Smothers scored his second touchdown of the game, this time on a 1-yard rush. The fumble was the first turnover of the game.
- Shudak kicked his third field goal of the game, splitting the uprights this time from 36 yards, to trim the Iowa deficit to 21-9 with 27 seconds remaining in the third period. QB Spencer Petras, who took control of the offense at the start of the quarter, drove the Hawkeyes 57 yards in 10 plays. Two key plays on third downs helped move the chains for the Hawkeyes (24-yard pass completion to WR Nico Ragaini and a pass interference penalty against Nebraska).
- Iowa got a special teams spark early in the fourth quarter when Henry Marchese blocked a Nebraska punt. Kyler Fisher returned the block 14 yards for Iowa’s first touchdown of the day to cut Nebraska’s advantage to five with 14:16 remaining in the fourth quarter.
- The Hawkeyes scored the 12-straight point via the defense. Lukas VanNess forced an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone to close to within 21-18 with 9:56 left in the fourth quarter.
- Iowa tied the game with 7:21 remaining in the fourth period on a 44-yard field goal by Shudak, marking the second straight game that the senior kicker converted four field goals.
- Iowa scored its 22nd straight point on a Spencer Petras 2-yard touchdown rush. The key play of the scoring drive was a 55-yard scamper by Tyler Goodson to setup the Hawkeyes in the red zone.
- Jemari Harris preserved the victory, intercepting Smothers at the 2-yard line with 43 seconds remaining.
- DB Jermari Harris intercepted Nebraska on its 2-yard line on the Huskers’ final offensive play of the game. The interception is the second of the season for Harris and the 22nd of the season for Iowa. Iowa leads the country in interceptions (22). The Hawkeyes have 86 interception since 2017, more than any team in the country. Eleven different Hawkeyes have at least one interception this season. Iowa is plus-19 in turnover margin in its 10 wins and minus-six in its two losses.
- RB Tyler Goodson rushed 23 times for a career-high 156 yards, his ninth career 100-yard game. Goodson has been Iowa’s leading rusher for 15 straight games, the longest streak by a Hawkeye since Ladell Betts was Iowa’s top rusher for 37 straight games from 1998-2001. Betts is now Iowa’s running backs coach. Goodson has 2,501 career rushing yards, 10th all-time in program history.
- RB Tyler Goodson has 1,101 rushing yards on 238 attempts, both single-season career highs. The last time a Hawkeye rushed for 1,000 yards in a single season was 2017 (Akrum Wadley, 1,109).
- K Caleb Shudak was perfect on four field goals attempts today (51, 48, 36, 44), matching a career high set last week. Shudak connected on a 51-yard field goal in the second quarter, matching his career long. It was this third 51-yard field goal of the season.
- K Caleb Shudak was good on both PAT attempts and scored 14 points today, raising his season total to 100, the eighth highest single season point total in school history.
- LB Jack Campbell had a game-high 16 tackles, raising his season total to 124 (tied 28th in school history). Campbell has four double-digit tackle performances (11, 18, 17, 16) this season.
- FB Monte Pottebaum’s 26-yard rush in the third quarter was a career long.
- DB Henry Marchese blocked a Nebraska punt in the fourth quarter. DB Kyler Fisher picked up the blocked put and returned it 14 yards for a touchdown. The last time Iowa returned a blocked punt for a touchdown was 2014, Ben Niemann vs. Northwestern.
- QB Alex Padilla made his third straight start. QB Spencer Petras relieved Padilla to start the second half.
- Iowa has won seven straight and eight of the last nine meetings with Nebraska.
- Iowa has won nine straight games played on a Friday. Iowa defeated Maryland on Oct. 1 in its first of two Friday games in 2021. Iowa defeated Nebraska, 28-21, today. The schools have played on Black Friday every year since Nebraska joined the Big Ten Conference in 2011. Iowa is 8-3 in those 11 Black Friday meetings.
- Iowa retained possession of the Heroes Trophy. The Hawkeyes are 3-1 in trophy games this season and 22-5 in their last 27 rivalry trophy games (Iowa State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin). The Hawkeyes have won seven straight when competing for the Heroes Trophy.
- Iowa won the toss and elected to defer. The Hawkeyes have played 286 games under head coach Kirk Ferentz. Iowa has opened the game on offense 213 times (136-77). The Hawkeyes have opened the game on defense 73 times (42-31).
- The Hawkeyes will advance to the Big Ten Championship game if Minnesota defeats Wisconsin on Nov. 27.