For the second time in the 2018 season, Nebraska lost on a walk-off field goal, falling to the Iowa Hawkeyes 31-28. Iowa placekicker Miguel Recinos hit a 40 yard field goal as time expired. Iowa handed Nebraska their fourth straight Black Friday game loss. The loss marks the fifth game Nebraska has gone down in by less than one possession this season.
However, the Huskers were able to hang around when for all the world; it looked as if they were down and out. Leading 28-13 at the end of the third quarter, Iowa had every opportunity to finish off the Huskers. After Adrian Martinez threw a dart to Maurice Washington for a 28 yard touchdown, the Hawkeye’s next drive stalled out, resulting in a punt.
Iowa got their second chance to put things on ice after intercepting Adrian Martinez in the very next drive. Just a few yards away from pay dirt, the Hawkeyes attempted a fake field goal on fourth and two, but came up short in a questionable decision from Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz.
Nebraska made them pay, marching down the field in a 13 play, 80 yard touchdown drive that was capped off on a three yard quarterback keeper from Martinez. Kade Warner snagged the ball in the end-zone for the two point conversion, tying the score at 28.
The Blackshirts couldn’t hold on to send the game into overtime. With under a minute left on the game clock, Iowa QB Nate Stanley found T.J. Hockenson for a 10 yard pass on fourth and eight to set up the game-winner, sending the Huskers home with their eighth loss of the season.
“(It was) a gutsy decision for them,” Nebraska head coach Scott Frost said after the game. “I give them credit. I give coach Ferentz credit. If they gave us the ball back right there with 40 seconds left, I like our chances of hitting a couple of plays and getting an opportunity for a field goal.”
Frost echoed the comments he made after the Husker’s final practice on Wednesday. “(I’m) disappointed but very prideful,” Frost said, summing up the year. “There (has been) a lot of emotions this season. This has been a trying year for us.”
Frost continued, expressing his hope for the future. Undoubtedly, Nebraska is playing better football than they were in 2017, even though both teams finished with the same record. 2017’s team closed out the season with four consecutive losses. The 2018 team won four of their last six games. Nebraska may not have much to show for it, but the program is light years ahead of where it was 365 days ago, after getting shelled by the Hawkeyes 56-14.
Nebraska didn’t get the story book ending they would’ve wanted – to get to celebrate in the rain on their rival’s turf. A teary-eyed Luke Gifford speaking to the media after the game couldn’t have been more optimistic, despite what was an agonizing defeat for his squad.
“I’m so happy for these guys. They’re going to win a ton of games here (at Nebraska),” Gifford said. “I’m so thankful for them.” The rest of Gifford’s comments were muffled as the senior tried to stifle his sobs. His career ended as the clock hit 0:00. But what he and the rest of the seniors have done for the future of the program is immeasurable. Frost will head into year two knowing that the foundation is in place. The only way to go now is up.
By Tim Curran