Hawkeyes hand Huskers another heartbreak in 31-28 defeat
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Nebraska was able to turn what looked to be yet another blowout loss to division rival Iowa into a tie game in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough to avoid closing the 2018 season with one more heartbreaking defeat.
After trailing by 15 in third quarter, the Huskers rallied back to tie it up at 28-28 with 3:26 left to play, but Iowa kicker Miguel Recinos ended the rally with a walk-off 41-yard field goal as time expired to hand NU a 31-28 loss.
Freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez racked up more than 300 total yards and three touchdowns while Stanley Morgan etched his name at the top of the school career record books, but it wasn’t enough to match a physically dominant performance by Iowa.
The Huskers ended their first season under head coach Scott Frost at 4-8 and failed to earn bowl eligibility for the second straight year.
Iowa had no troubles methodically marching down the field to open the game on an 11-play, 79-yard drive that took up 5:23 and ended with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Nate Stanley to Brandon Smith.
But the Huskers answered right back with a 12-play, 81-yard march of their own and tied it up with a three-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jack Stoll. On the drive, Morgan broke Kenny Bell’s school record for career receiving yards (2, 689), and he later broke his own single-season yardage record and became NU’s first 1,000-yard receiver.
Iowa ended up holding the ball for 11 minutes of the first quarter with 159 total yards, limiting NU to just one offensive possession. The Hawkeyes then capped a 13-play, 85-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown run by Toren Young to open the second period.
Nebraska came right back with a 35-yard pass to running back Maurice Washington, but it had to settle for a 27-yard field goal from freshman Barret Pickering to make it 14-10 with 11:30 left in the half.
The game finally saw its first stops of the day with back-to-back punts on the next two drives, but after converting a fourth-and-three at the NU 38, the Hawkeyes pushed their lead to 21-10 on a 15-yard touchdown run by Mekhi Sargent with just 45 seconds left before halftime.
That scoring drive was UI’s longest yet, going 85 yards on 15 plays and eating up 7:16 off the clock.
The Huskers got a much-needed boost just before the break, though, as an offsides penalty on a Pickering missed field goal as time expired allowed the true freshman to get another shot, and he delivered with a career-long 46-yard make to cut the deficit to 21-13.
When the half finally came to an end, though, the Hawkeyes had already racked up 252 yards of offense, 17 first downs, converted 4-of-6 third downs, and held a 20:49-9:11 edge in time of possession.
The second half got off to a rough start for NU, as Washington called for a fair catch on the kickoff but let the ball bounce, picked it up and took a knee. That spotted the offense at its own seven-yard line, and a quick three-and-out led to a punt.
Iowa capitalized right away with a five-yard touchdown pass to Sargent to take a commanding 28-13 with 9:13 to go in the third.
The Hawkeyes had a chance to make it a three-score game with a field goal from the NU three-yard line, but instead called a fake that was stopped short for a turnover on downs.
Nebraska got a little tricky as well a few plays later, as linebacker Luke Gifford took the snap on a punt deep in Husker territory and ran for the first down. The Huskers then picked up two more fourth-down conversions to set up a beautiful 28-yard touchdown pass to Washington.
The 14-play, 98-yard drive pulled NU within 28-20 with 13:57 remaining in the game.
The Blackshirts stepped up with a three-and-out stop to get the ball back after a punt at their 37, and the offense moved into Iowa territory after another fourth-down conversion. But Martinez made his first big mistake of the day and threw an interception right to defensive back Michael Ojemudia.
Iowa had a another shot to make it a two-score game, but Miguel Recinos shanked a 37-yard field goal with 7:54 to go, leaving NU with plenty of time to rally.
Martinez methodically led the offense into striking distance, and he finished off a 13-play, 80-yard charge with a three-yard touchdown run. Needing the two-point try to tie it, Martinez scrambled and found Kade Warner in the back of the end zone to lock it up at 28-28 with 3:26 remaining.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette took the ensuing kickoff 27 yards to the Iowa 36, and the Hawkeyes pounded the ball into NU territory with three straight runs. But Iowa was eventually faced with a fourth-and-eight from the Huskers 37, and Stanley connected with tight end T.J. Hockenson for a 10-yard gain and a first down.
Two plays later, Recinos came back onto the field for a 41-yard attempt with just three seconds to play. This time he drilled it as the clock hit zeroes and sealed the victory for the Hawekeys.