Iowa football: What we learned from the Hawkeyes' thrilling win over Nebraska
IOWA CITY, Ia. — It looked like a shootout early, then a collapse late. But Iowa squeezed it out.
Miguel Recinos’ 41-yard field goal with no time remaining gave the Hawkeyes a 31-28 win over Nebraska on Black Friday at Kinnick Stadium. The win is Iowa’s fourth straight over the Huskers.
"It was a hard-fought win out there, a physical game, tough game," Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We knew it was going to be a tough game. We're playing a team that's got a lot of good players, very well-coached. They've had a lot of momentum these past six weeks. We knew there was going to be nothing easy about this thing.
"The bottom line is games get decided on the field. It's all about performance, what guys do out on the field. I thought our guys did a good job starting Sunday, getting ready. They prepared very well all week, really focused. Not being in school can be a good thing, it can be a bad thing. I thought our guys really matured and prepared well."
►More: Recinos delivers Hawkeye win over Nebraska with clutch field goal
It shouldn’t have been this close. The Hawkeyes’ second half was full of miscues that let Nebraska back in. The Huskers rallied from a 28-13 deficit to tie it on an Adrian Martinez touchdown run and Kade Warner two-point conversion with 3:22 to go.
But Iowa had one last gasp. A key conversion to T.J. Hockenson on fourth-and-8 kept the drive alive with 42 seconds to go and gave Recinos a chance for the winner.
A second chance
It was redemption for Recinos, who missed a 37-yard field goal in the fourth that would’ve given Iowa a 31-20 lead. But that kick went wide right and gave Nebraska hope.
The Huskers iced Recinos before the game-winning kick, but it didn’t matter. After banging it home, the senior kicker took a victory lap around the field as the entire team chased him down.
"I said something quickly to him as he went on the field," Ferentz said. "We knew they were going to try to ice him. At that point, yeah, let him do what he does. I don't know anything about kicking. Keep your eyes down. I know that. Wasn't much I could tell him that was going to help him."
Churning it out
The Hawkeyes’ ground game had been in a funk all year until finally awakening last week at Illinois. Young and Sargent spilled that momentum into Friday.
The duo ran for 256 yards — 173 from Sargent, 83 from Young — and scored twice. Sargent was key for Iowa down the stretch, helping move the Hawkeyes into field goal range on their final drive. Not bad for a guy who joined the program in June and was basically third on the depth chart heading into camp.
"He's just meant a lot for us up front," center Keegan Render said. "Sometimes, we may not block the play the best, but he's going to make it better for us. That just makes us go a little harder."
Iowa overcame a peculiar call late in the third. Owning a 28-13 lead, the Hawkeyes opted for a fake field goal instead of a chip shot. Hockenson was tackled just short of the marker, giving Nebraska a window to climb back in. The Huskers then drove 98 yards, extending the drive with their own successful fake punt.
"Maybe we got greedy, but we were playing to win," Ferentz said. "First half, too, maybe didn't have the opportunity to make that type of decision. They did a good job of defending it. Credit goes to them on that one."
Momentum totally flipped on that decision. But Iowa overcame their own miscues in the end.
Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.