Wadley, Fant lead Iowa onslaught in drubbing of Nebraska
LINCOLN, Neb. – Akrum Wadley broke Nebraska’s ankles. Noah Fant broke its spirit.
Iowa’s two most dynamic offensive players were too much for the Cornhuskers to handle Friday, breaking free for five touchdowns in a 56-14 rout at Memorial Stadium.
"The line was pushing some guys around. Tight ends blocked. Wide receivers, they were going downfield sacrificing their body. It was fun," Wadley said after Iowa piled up 505 yards of offense and scored on six of seven trips to the red zone.
It was the third consecutive victory for Iowa (7-5, 4-5 Big Ten Conference) in the Heroes Rivalry and the second blowout in a row, following a 40-10 win last year at Kinnick Stadium.
Wadley carried 19 times for 159 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Iowa onslaught. That put him over the 1,000-yard mark for the second consecutive season, the first Hawkeye rusher to do that since Fred Russell in 2002-03. It also gave him 34 career touchdowns, two shy of tying Tavian Banks’ Iowa record.
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Fant caught three passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns, the second one a 68-yard sprint down his sideline that put the Hawkeyes ahead 42-14 to seal the win. Fant, an Omaha native who was only belatedly recruited by his home state school, belly-flopped into the end zone at the end of that romp, adding a little salt to what was already a salty Nebraska crowd in what was likely coach Mike Riley’s final game.
Fant was flagged 15 yards for his display, but it hardly mattered on a sparkling afternoon for an Iowa offense that had struggled in back-to-back losses.
"I wanted to score. It was called as a flag. I personally don't think it was unsportsmanlike conduct," Fant said.
"Once I cleared the corner, my main focus was to use my speed so I couldn't get angle-tackled. Streaking down the sideline, that's something that I'll remember for a long time."
Joked Wadley, who had a touchdown called back this season for high-stepping into the end zone: "I wanted him to punt it."
That gives Fant, a sophomore, 10 touchdowns this year and 11 for his career. He has a single-season record for touchdowns by a Hawkeye tight end.
For good measure, Iowa graduate transfer running back James Butler got his first Hawkeye touchdown on a 12-yard run. Redshirt freshman Toren Young got into the act in the fourth quarter with a 3-yard scoring run, his second this season. True freshman Ivory Kelly-Martin then got his third touchdown of the year on a 5-yard run.
Iowa ran for 313 yards, averaging a gaudy 6.7 per carry.
"We all can have dinner with each other and just talk about, everybody got love, everybody got fed," Wadley said of his quartet of running backs all scoring in the same game.
By the time it was over, it was hard to remember that Nebraska (4-8, 3-6) actually led 14-7 in the second quarter. That was when a running-into-the-punter penalty allowed Iowa to maintain possession and score the tying touchdown on a 5-yard connection from Nate Stanley to Fant.
Iowa will find out its bowl destination Sunday, Dec. 3. Nebraska will find out the fate of its coach, probably Saturday.
Wadley has 2,784 rushing yards, passing Russell to move into fifth place in Iowa history. The New Jersey native was at a rare loss for words when trying to explain what that means to him.
"That's big-time to me," Wadley said. "I felt like this was a Super Bowl to me, just to leave our jersey in a better place.
"And I feel like we've done that."