In a game viewed as the final sendoff for Nebraska’s 22 seniors and head coach Mike Riley, the annual Black Friday showdown with Iowa ended feeling more like a funeral.
The game was close through the first two quarters, but things quickly fell apart in a major way for the Huskers in the second half in what ended up a 56-14 blowout win for the Hawkeyes.
With the loss, Nebraska finishes the 2017 season at 4-8. That marks the Huskers’ lowest win total since 1961 and their most losses in a season since 1957.
It also served as the first time in program history NU's defense has allowed 50 points or more in three consecutive games.
Nebraska dodged a huge bullet on the first play of the game, as what looked to be a Tanner Lee fumble was recovered by Iowa for a touchdown was overturned as an incomplete pass.
While the break ended up leading to a punt, the Blackshirts got another big momentum swing with a three-and-out stop and then Iowa punter Colten Rastetter bobbling the snap and getting stuffed at the Hawkeye 15-yard line.
Facing a third-and-nine, Lee threw a strike over the middle to wideout Stanley Morgan, who snagged the ball with one hand in the back of the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown.
On the ensuing kickoff, Iowa return man Ihmir Smith-Marsette inexplicably fielded the ball at the one and immediately stepped out of bounds, pinning the offense at its own goal line.
Yet the Hawkeyes were able to calm the waters with a methodic 15-play, 99-yard drive that ate up 7:18 off the clock and tied the game up on a 25-yard by running back Akrum Wadley with 2:16 left in the first quarter.
Nebraska had a chance to reclaim the lead when it drove into Iowa territory on its next possession on a 36-yard field goal attempt with the wind at their backs. Instead, the Huskers called a fake field goal pass from holder Zack Darlington to fullback Luke McNitt, which was stuffed for a five-yard loss.
The defense would hold and get the Huskers the ball back, and this time the offense made sure to capitalize. Facing another third-and-long inside UI territory, Lee found Morgan on a post-corner route for a 28-yard touchdown to make it 14-7 with 6:18 left in the half.
That completion not only gave NU the lead, it allowed Morgan to break the great Johnny Rodgers’ 45-year-old single-season receiving yards record.
The Huskers seemed to have all the momentum after then stopping Iowa on third down and forcing a punt, but Tony Butler was flagged for running into the punter and giving the Hawkeyes a first down.
That second chance led to Iowa marching 64 more yards on eight plays and tying it back up on a four-yard touchdown pass to tight end and Omaha native Noah Fant with just 25 seconds left before halftime.
The wild day of special teams continued on the opening kickoff of the second half, as Smith-Marsette broke what looked to be an 86-yard runback for a touchdown but was moved back to the NU 12 due to a penalty.
Iowa only needed five more plays to get it back in the end zone, though, as Wadley punched his way in for a one-yard touchdown run to put the Hawkeyes up 21-14.
After Nebraska’s following drive stalled, Iowa wasted no time hitting Fant for a 44-yard pass and then scoring on a 12-yard run by running back James Butler that pushed the lead to 28-14 with 9:53 left in the third quarter.
The snowball only continued from there, as Lee was picked off by linebacker Ben Niemann at the NU 40, and Wadley took it to the house from 29 yards out two plays later to make it 35-14.
Fant rubbed it in even more on his home-state school when he took a short pass down the right sideline 68 yards for his second touchdown of the game to bump Nebraska’s deficit to 28 heading into the fourth quarter.
Iowa added another touchdown on a Toren Young run to make it 49-14 with 9:24 left, and then added another touchdown run to crack the 50-point mark at 56-14.