Iowa seniors deserved better than 7-5
IOWA CITY, Ia. -- The senior members of Iowa's football team deserved a more satisfying sendoff.
What they got Friday was a punch below the belt, losing 37-34 in overtime to Nebraska.
"It's definitely not the way I want to go out," linebacker Quinton Alston said. "I feel like I gave everything I have today. It stings a little bit, man."
This is a pain that will linger long after Iowa (7-5 overall, 4-4 in the Big Ten) accepts an invitation to some mid-level bowl game.
The 16 seniors were pivotal in helping the Hawkeye build a 24-7 lead midway through the third quarter, but they couldn't prevent the Cornhuskers from rallying twice in the fourth quarter and eventually winning on Tommy Armstrong Jr.'s 9-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Bell.
"These are some of the best guys I've ever met in my life," junior running back Jordan Canzeri said. "I feel they deserved that win just because of who they are. Football isn't like that. It was a tough-fought game. And (Nebraska) made some plays."
Among Iowa's playmakers:
Senior receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley, who has played every game since 2011, finished with six catches for 63 yards.
He needs just three more receptions to eclipse the school record of 173, set by Derrell Johnson-Koulianos.
"We had our opportunities," Martin-Manley said. "We didn't capitalize, and that's what we need to do next game."
Senior defensive tackles Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat tormented Armstrong early in the second half as the Hawkeyes built a 17-point advantage.
Davis also blocked a field-goal attempt.
"I still feel like we have a good team," Davis said. "Our loss column does not reflect the team we have.
"This one definitely hurts. We thought we had it."
Senior safety John Lowdermilk scored his first college touchdown after intercepting a floater from Armstrong and returning it 17 yards.
"Our seniors are still the ones trying to be positive with the situation," Canzeri said. "Quinton Alston broke us down and told us we need to stay together as a family."
Alston was credited with eight tackles, including a sack, but the defense cracked at the wrong time.
Jake Rudock threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Canzeri, putting Iowa ahead 31-28 with 1:49 left in the fourth quarter.
Armstrong responded with an eight-play, 69-yard drive that culminated with Drew Brown's tying 20-yard field goal with 8 seconds remaining.
After the Hawkeyes were held to a field goal in overtime, Armstrong needed just four plays to find Bell for the clincher.
Now the Cornhuskers (9-3, 5-3) appear to have an inside track to the Holiday Bowl. Iowa's destination is more of a crapshoot.
"I feel like we had the talent to win more games," Martin-Manley said. "We lost a few close games, but we have to go back to the drawing board and try to get this eighth win.
"If we get the eighth win, it'll be an all-right season, (but) underachieving from the goals and our talent level."