By Jack Brandsgard (firstname.lastname@example.org) 11/26/18
IOWA CITY—Even after a rollercoaster win and a post-game helmet to the face, Kirk Ferentz was able to infuse some humor into his press conference.
“I’m not a big shopper. Today is Black Friday. I’m smart enough to know that, it was in the paper this morning. But for us this is a Black and Gold Friday.”
It marked the fourth “Black and Gold” Friday in a row as the Hawkeyes beat Nebraska 31-28 to secure their fourth-straight win in the series. Miguel Recinos clinched the victory with a 41-yard field goal as time expired.
The senior had missed a 37-yard try minutes earlier and Nebraska coach Scott Frost had just “frozen” him. Then Recinos iced the game.
“I think Frost made a big mistake calling timeout on that one,” Recinos said. “Because it gave me an opportunity to kind of get the guys together and I was able to say a few things to them, told them I loved them.”
His teammates clearly love him, too, as they chased him around the field following the field goal. Recinos is part of a senior class that finished 12-0 against rivals Iowa State, Minnesota, and Nebraska.
Part of Iowa’s success on Friday came because it physically manhandled Nebraska at the point of attack. The Hawkeyes ran 45 times for a season-high 266 yards (5.9 average) and two touchdowns. Iowa ran for 143 yards in the first half, which is the most in a half since it ran for 187 also against Nebraska in 2016. The offensive line created craters for holes, and even Iowa’s tight ends got in on the action:
Mekhi Sargent was the main beneficiary of the blocking as he rushed 26 times for 173 yards (both career highs) and a touchdown. For the second-straight week, Sargent rushed for at least 100 yards after the Hawkeyes hadn’t had a 100-yard rusher in any of the previous games this season. With that, Sargent became the first Iowa underclassman with multiple 100-yard efforts in the same season since Akrum Wadley in 2015. Sargent credited his blockers after the game.
“Iowa is a running team, a pro-style offense, and the line was outstanding,” he said. “I think overall it’s just unselfish football.”
It was also a team effort on defense, where the Hawkeyes were tasked with bottling up Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez. The freshman was able to escape contain on a few occasions, but Iowa wrangled him more often than not.
Anthony Nelson recorded two sacks and AJ Epenesa added another, continuing their trend throughout the season. Each of them have 9.5 sacks this season, which are the most in a season by a Hawkeye since Adrian Clayborn had 11.5 in 2009.
Iowa entered with an FBS-leading 17 takeaways in the second half of games this season, and it got another timely one late when Michael Ojemudia intercepted Martinez in Hawkeye territory. The turnover set up Recinos’ missed field goal attempt, and Nebraska responded by scoring a touchdown and converting the game-tying two-point conversion with 3:22 remaining.
The tension was palpable in Kinnick as Hawkeye fans feared another close game. Iowa entered 0-3 in games decided by single digits.
However Sargent busted one loose and suddenly the Hawkeyes were in Nebraska territory. Nate Stanley found Hockenson for a critical fourth-down conversion and Recinos sealed the game a few seconds later.
Iowa finishes the regular season 8-4 and 5-4 in Big Ten play, which sets them up for a quality bowl game. Ferentz was asked where he thought Iowa would play its final game.
“I have no idea,” he said. “I know it will be warmer than last year.”
Final Team Stats Below