Instant Takes: Iowa: 28, Nebraska: 21
Here are three instant takes from Nebraska's 28-21 loss to Iowa, finishing the season 3-9 in Scott Frost's fourth season.
Quarterback Logan Smothers got his first start for Nebraska and gave Husker Nation a promising glimpse into the future. With more experience and a stronger offensive line in front of him, Smothers could handle the start role well.
Nebraska’s offense looked different with Smothers under center rather than quarterback Adrian Martinez, who had shoulder surgery on Wednesday. While Martinez can use his legs, he hasn’t been running as much this season, outside of scrambles, likely due to injuries.
Smothers, who is from Muscle Shoals, Ala., made a statement when he charged Nebraska down the field using his legs and a 28-yard pass to receiver Samori Toure. He ran into the endzone, scoring the first points of the game.
Smothers ran the ball seven times on Nebraska’s second touchdown drive of the game. He kept the ball, accelerated to show off his speed and gained 24 yards to get the Huskers into the red zone.
Yant took the handoff and launched over the trenches into the endzone to cap off Nebraska’s 13-play 75-yard and over six-minute drive.
Smothers is fast and can take a hit. He took a lot of big hits during the first quarter and popped right back up.
With an explosive, healthy quarterback, Nebraska's offense opened up with the threat of Smothers' legs. Once the offense got going, it ran smooth. But struggled to pick up momentum at times.
But when Smothers was under pressure, he made poor decisions resulting in a fumble and a safety due to intentional grounding in the endzone. Smothers threw a crushing interception, costing Nebraska a chance at winning.
These decisions in high-pressure situations were likely due to inexperience but still not excusable.
Smothers went 16-of-22 in his first start and had 64 yards on the ground with 24 carries.
The offense as a whole had 199 passing yards and 129 rushing yards.
Nebraska's defense didn't allow a touchdown in 57 minutes of game time
The Blackshirts didn't give up a single touchdown to the Hawkeyes' offense until three minutes remained in the game.
Iowa's only touchdown came on a special team when Iowa's Evan Jones blocked a punt on the Nebraska 14 yard line and Kyle Fisher catch it in the air and ran it in for a touchdown, 21-16 Huskers.
Nebraska held Iowa to four field goals with four trips red zone trips. Three of the field goals were over 44 yards and the other was a 36-yarder by kicker Caleb Shudak.
Even when Smothers' fumble was recovered on Iowa's 48-yard line, the defense held and forced a three-and-out.
And when Nebraska kicked the ball off to Iowa's kick returner Charlie Jones and he returned it 25 yards to the 40-yard line, the Huskers' defense didn't break and gave up three points to a 44-yard field goal by Shudak.
Finally, with three minutes left to go after the dam of mistakes broke with the blocked punt, Iowa running back Tyler Goodson broke free for a 55-yard run. Quarterback Spencer Petras punched the ball in for a 2-yard touchdown run and the Hawkeyes went up 28-21 with three minutes remaining.
Nebraska's defense was not perfect. They still gave up 21 points. But they planned well enough to keep the Huskers in the game if the offense could have scored after going up 21-6 with six-minutes remaining of the third quarter.
What a rough season
The first half of the Nebraska vs. Iowa game felt different with Smothers and the offense running well and the defense coming up with big stop after big stop.
But as soon as the punt was blocked to start the fourth quarter, the momentum shifted fast enough to make a head spin.
From an outside perspective, it seemed as though Nebraska thought "not again" and couldn't get out of its own way with three turnovers in the fourth quarter.
Not the way Nebraska's seniors wanted to go out, singing the same song.
The season ends in the way it started, with disappointment.