May 25, 2024

Hawkeyes standing in way of Huskers’ final quest for bowl eligibility

Nebraska Cornhuskers Football

Nebraska Coach Matt Rhule glances up at the scoreboard during a timeout in the second quarter against Minnesota Thursday August 31, 2023 at Huntington Bank Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

After winning five of their first eight games, the Huskers are on a downward spiral and need a victory on Senior Day to snap a six-year bowl drought.

Big Red Nation is on edge because of Nebraska’s three-game losing streak, after failing to deliver in gut-wrenching losses to Michigan State, Maryland and Wisconsin. Now first-year Coach Matt Rhule’s back is against the wall as No. 17 Iowa prepares to invade Memorial Stadium on Black Friday.

The Heroes Game is always intense, but this time around the Hawkeyes have nothing to lose, while Nebraska (5-6) has everything to gain. After all, Iowa has already clinched a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game, while Nebraska is trying to end one of the most embarrassing streaks in school history.

There’s no denying the Hawkeyes could be potentially walking into a snakepit inside the Sea of Red. However, Coach Kirk Ferentz has led Iowa (9-2) to five-straight wins in Lincoln, and Rhule desperately wants to change that narrative. Nebraska snapped a seven-game losing streak in the series last year, when it was victorious at Kinnick Stadium under Interim Coach Mickey Joseph.

Although the Hawkeyes want revenge, Husker fans are hoping Rhule can accomplish the same feat as Joseph, considering what it’ll mean for the near future of the program. Nebraska has played in 53 bowls games, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that everyone is anxious for postseason glory. It’ll be beneficial for the players to have the extra practices, and for the most loyal fans in the game to finally have a vacation.

It’s a head-scratcher that the Huskers are the favorite in this contest. The Hawkeyes are no slouch, and have won six of their last seven games, including three-straight. The pressure is on Nebraska though, and Rhule must come up with a great game plan. That means the Huskers have a slim margin for error, and everyone must stay disciplined.

It’s no mystery that Nebraska is dead last in the nation in turnovers lost, and that’s an area Iowa will try to exploit. With both defenses playing lights out, points are going to be hard to come by. Still, Rhule needs to throw the kitchen sink at the Hawkeyes, and attempt some risks. Anything to keep Ferentz on his toes.

The Huskers have shown the ability to run the ball. Not only will pounding the rock control the clock, but it’ll lure the Iowa linebackers closer to the line of scrimmage for the play-action pass downfield. Special teams and field position will be key too. Iowa has the best punter in the country in Tory Taylor, and he knows how to pin the ball deep in the opposition’s territory.

Rhule will need to lean heavy on the Blackshirts to set the tone and dictate the flow of the game. Iowa’s Deacon Hill is a serviceable quarterback at best, and the Blackshirts need to shut down the run, and force him to beat them with his arm.

Chubba Purdy has looked promising behind center over the past two games, and has made others around him better. Purdy gives the Huskers options, but Offensive Coordinator Marcus Satterfield must call the right plays for him to execute.

The forecast is for freezing temperatures at kickoff, making it the coldest game of the season for the Huskers. The football is going to feel like a hard rock because of the weather conditions, and mistakes are bound to happen.

Regardless of the matter, the Husker seniors want to go out on a high note, and been waiting their entire careers for this moment to clinch bowl eligibility.

Which is why Friday morning can’t get here fast enough.