April 20, 2024

Iowa no longer controls its’ own destiny after loss to Nebraska

Iowa Hawkeyes Football

Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz glances at the scoreboard after a failed fourth down attempt against Nebraska in the fourth quarter Friday November 25, 2022 at Kinnick Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

IOWA CITY, Ia. — A berth in the Big Ten Championship Game was on the line for the Hawkeyes when they clashed with the Huskers Friday afternoon.

And the sold out crowd at Kinnick Stadium was ready for Iowa to deliver the goods. After all, the Hawkeyes had won seven-straight in the Heroes series. Not to mention it was Senior Day for a plethora of players. So there’s no denying the emotions were high. However, it turned out to be a matchup nightmare as Nebraska dominated the first half and outlasted Iowa 24-17.

The final score was a head-scratcher for several fans, because the two teams appeared to be headed in opposite directions on the season. Regardless, Kirk Ferentz’s team had everything to gain, while Mickey Joseph’s boys had nothing to lose.

And it was ugly from the start for the Hawkeyes. Quarterback Spencer Petras got knocked out of the game early on, and the offense couldn’t move the ball consistently. The Hawkeyes turned the ball over twice and punted four times on their first six possessions. To make matters worse Iowa was held scoreless in the first half for the second time this season.

The players didn’t look inspired and came out flat as if nothing was at stake, but Ferentz disagreed.

“I don’t think it was a lack of energy, I think it was just a lack — we didn’t play clean enough,” Ferentz said. “You have to do that if you’re going to play conference football or any football.”

Iowa’s defense dominated all season long, but had a hard time slowing down the Huskers’ aerial attack. Nebraska quarterback Casey Thompson threw for 278 yards and three touchdowns, including two to wideout Trey Palmer. The duo drew first blood when they hooked up for an 87-yard score in the first quarter.

The secondary couldn’t contain Palmer, who finished with a game-high, nine catches for 165 yards. And that’s mind-boggling, considering he accomplished that feat against ballhawks like Riley Moss and Kaevon Merriweather.

Before the Hawkeyes could even blink, they were down 17-0 at the half, and that left Ferentz frustrated.

“You play 60 minutes,” he said. “I don’t want to say we couldn’t have played worse in the first half, but we really put ourselves in a tough position the first 30 minutes with the turnovers, penalties and giving up the big plays.”

Iowa (7-5) rallied back in the second half though, and scored 17 unanswered point to cut Nebraska’s lead to a touchdown with under six minutes left in the fourth quarter. Running back Kaleb Johnson took the pigskin 44 yards to the house, and backup signal-caller Alex Padilla connected with tight end Luke Lachey for a score.

Ferentz was proud of the way his players responded to adversity and didn’t give up. Although Padilla struggled with his accuracy at times, and there were some dropped balls, Ferentz thought he had a solid outing.

“I thought he did a lot of good things, gave us a chance,” the 67-year old coach said. ”

Padilla completed 16 of his 33 passes for 141 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Johnson finished with 109 yards on the ground. It was the third game of his career that he eclipsed the century mark in rushing. Lachey hauled in seven passes for 89 yards, which were both team-highs.

The Hawkeyes did tighten up on defense, but the damage had already been done. Senior linebackers Jack Campbell and Seth Benson tallied eight tackles apiece. Defensive tackle Noah Shannon added six stops, including a sack. Edge rusher Deontae Craig also put Thompson to the turf.

It’s just unfortunate that the defense couldn’t carry the team to the finish line this time around. Now Iowa will need Purdue to lose to Indiana tomorrow in order to backpedal into the Big Ten Championship Game again. Regardless of the matter, Ferentz didn’t get to send his seniors off on a high note, but emphasized how the team will rebound in the next game.

“At some point we’ll get together next week here and get ready to focus on this next game, and see if we can come up with a victory for the last time.”