Nebraska produced more total offense than Iowa, but the Hawkeyes picked up their first win in Lincoln since 1943 with a 38-17 victory over the Huskers on Friday at Memorial Stadium.
Nebraska ended its regular season with an 8-4 overall record and a 5-3 Big Ten mark, while Iowa improved to 8-4 and 5-3 in the conference.
The Huskers outgained the Hawkeyes, 288-281, in a hard-hitting struggle. I-back Ameer Abdullah led with Huskers with a season-low 85 yards on 23 carries with one touchdown, despite playing little more than three quarters. Kenny Bell added seven catches for 67 yards to lead the Husker receivers, while Quincy Enunwa added three catches for 46 yards and NU’s other touchdown.
Senior quarterback Ron Kellogg III completed 19-of-37 for 199 yards and a score in his first career start on Senior Day at Memorial Stadium. Starting for the time in place of injured quarterbacks Taylor Martinez and Tommy Armstrong Jr., Kellogg threw interceptions on NU’s first two possessions of the game before helping the Huskers get rolling late in the second quarter.
Nebraska committed three turnovers that Iowa converted into 14 points on the day. The turnovers and strong play on special teams gave Iowa a massive advantage in starting field position on the day.
The Hawkeyes started seven of their 15 drives on Nebraska’s half of the field. Five of Iowa’s six scoring drives started inside the NU 42. For the game, the Hawkeyes had an average drive start at their own 45, while Nebraska’s average start came at its own 22.
Iowa set the tone in the first quarter, intercepting Kellogg twice, before turning the second one into its first score of the day. CJ Fiedorowicz took a 10-yard pass from Jake Rudock with 16 seconds left in the first quarter to give Iowa a 7-0 lead.
Mark Weisman added a one-yard run with 5:15 left in the second quarter to cap a three-play, 41-yard drive that took three plays and 1:09.
Trailing 14-0 late in the half, the Huskers put together an 11-play, 59-yard drive that resulted in a Pat Smith field goal with 0:31 left to put NU on the board headed to halftime.
Nebraska started the second half with the ball and built more momentum with an 11-play, 75-yard drive capped by Abdullah’s five-yard touchdown run with 10:14 left in the third quarter.
Leading 14-10, Iowa answered with a 31-yard field goal from Mike Meyer to push the margin back to a touchdown, before closing the quarter with Rudock’s 24-yard scoring strike to Kevonte Martin-Manley to extend the lead back to two touchdowns at 24-10 heading to the fourth quarter.
Rudock’s second touchdown pass of the game followed a fake punt attempt by the Huskers, setting Iowa up at NU’s 24.
Kellogg rallied the Huskers again, hitting Quincy Enunwa on a 17-yard touchdown pass on fourth down on the opening drive of the fourth quarter to cut the margin to 24-17 with 11:25 left. The pass capped a 10-play, 71-yard drive and gave the Huskers hope for another fourth-quarter comeback.
Nebraska’s defense, which held Iowa to just 281 yards of total offense on the afternoon, forced a three-and-out and the Huskers took over with their best field position of the day at their own 40.
However, Abdullah was hit by a pair of Hawkeye defenders on the first play of NU’s drive, and stripped of the ball by Christian Kirksey and it was recovered by Louis Trinca-Pasat. Weisman punched it into the end zone two plays later for his second touchdown of the day to put Iowa back up by two scores at 31-17 with 9:17 left.
Iowa added a touchdown on another short field after Nebraska was turned away on fourth down on its own 27.