The Final Exam – Iowa 56 – Nebraska 14
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By John Patchett (firstname.lastname@example.org) 12/13/17
The Iowa – Nebraska Game is in the books. What has finally turned into a real rivalry has recently been dominated by the Hawkeyes who relentlessly pummeled the Cornhuskers in the second half. We’ve savored that performance for awhile now. I’ve procrastinated, been distracted by the long holiday weekend, and am trying to recover from 12 intense weeks of football. I think I could nearly copy and paste my Final Exam following the Ohio State Game – because this was an equally dominating performance in all phases (except for that punting thing that continues to slide downhill). So, it’s finally time to grade that final exam…
Iowa’s Offense was inconsistent and more often than not unproductive much of this season. Against Ohio State – it was nothing short of amazing, dominant, and extremely potent. The same was true at Nebraska. Everything about it was excellent – and dominant. The Hawkeyes scored 50+ points twice this season in Big Ten play – and failed to reach the 20 point mark in six others. This was one of those 50+ point games – and if you’re an Iowa fan it was a thing of beauty if not wonderment. A whopping 505 yards of total offense, including 313 rushing – those numbers will win most games. Oh, and Iowa finished the game by scoring 49 unanswered points (in the second half).
- Quarterback A+
- Nate Stanley was in fine form, completing 13 passes on 20 attempts with two touchdowns. He was in control the entire game, leading the offense on multiple long drives that ate clock and wore down the Cornhuskers Defense. Stanley finished the regular season with 25 passing touchdowns against just six interceptions.
- Running Backs A+
- Akrum Wadley was “wow” in this game, finishing with 159 yards and three TDs – he averaged 8.4 yards per run – and he went over 1000 yards rushing in back-to-back seasons. Ivory Kelly-Martin had some fun, too, rushing for 90 yards and one TD. James Butler got his first rushing touchdown as a Hawkeye. Toren Young also added a rush TD.
- Receivers (WR & TE) A+
- Stanley completed passes to five different receivers in this game. But it was a day where a Nebraska native shined for the Hawkeyes and stabbed Cornhusker fans through their collective hearts: TE Noah Fant had just three catches but they were for a total of 116 yards and two TDs (one of those was a 68 yarder).
- Offensive Line A+
- Iowa’s Offensive Line has been inconsistent all season. It was terrific in the win over Ohio State. Arguably it was even better against Nebraska. After giving up six sacks the week before vs. Purdue, the Huskers couldn’t get to Stanley once. Some blocking adjustments not only seemed to solve the blitzing issues Iowa had in the Wisconsin and Purdue games, but it helped enable long, clock-eating, power drives.
Iowa’s Defense has often had to make up for bad punting and mediocre offensive production in 2017. But not in this game – at least as far as the offense goes. Nebraska got all of its points in the first half and its first seven was the result of Punter Colten Rastetter’s fumbled snap on a punt attempt that gave the Cornhuskers the ball on Iowa’s 15 yard line. The Hawkeyes only surrendered 67 rushing yards to Nebraska – that’s an amazing number vs. any opponent. Iowa also picked Nebby’s QB three times.
- Defensive Line A
- Another game with only a single sack but non-stop pressure all day forced turnovers (the three INTs). Nate Bazata (a Nebraska native) also blew up a fake field goal attempt by the Huskers.
- Linebackers A
- Jewell, Niemann, and Bower worked great together as a unit in their last regular season game start together. The LBs also made all three of Iowa’s INTs in this game (Jewell, Niemann, and reserve Kristian Welch).
- Defensive Secondary A-
- Iowa’s secondary was playing short-handed: Amani Hooker was out again and Miles Taylor was injured early. Freshman Geno Stone stepped up big time, tying for the team lead in tackles with eight, and Jack Gervase played a solid game. Matt Hankins got the start at CB opposite Josh Jackson. Nebraska did get 200 yards passing but that was due in part to the fact that it couldn’t run the ball and had to passed 42 times to make up for it. The “-“ is due to the fact that both of Nebby’s scores came through the air.
Special Teams A (except Punting which gets a D)
I’m not going to deduct points from the Special Teams play overall just because the punting continues to be an Achilles Heel – so I’ve separated them out this time.
- Place-Kicking A
- PK Miguel Recinos has been a first-year starting star – consistent, close to perfect, and a huge difference-maker on opponents starting field position after kick-offs. He had nine kickoffs in this game – six of them for touchbacks. Also a perfect 8-8 on PATs (I’m sure his leg was tired on the return trip to Iowa City.)
- Punting D
- Colton Rastetter has just one job. He’s bad at it. Fortunately Iowa only had to officially punt twice in this game because Rastetter averaged a paltry 27 yards per punt. That’s unacceptable. He did draw a penalty (running into the punter) late in the first half that Iowa turned into a TD as the second quarter drew to a close, knotting the game at 14 apiece at Halftime. Sometimes you have to take one for the team. On the other hand, he fumbled his first punt snap of the game deep in Iowa territory that immediately led to an early Nebraska TD and lead.
- Punt Returns B
- Matt VandeBerg seemed to regain his punt return composure in this game – he had two for 31 yards.
- Kickoff Return B
- Ivory Kelly-Martin fielded his first kickoff return of this game by stepping out of bounds on the one yard line. Iowa’s Offense made up for that horrendous mistake by marching 99 yards for a TD. Then he had a 74 yards return for a touchdown to start the second half – that run was terrific. Unfortunately it was called back for a block in the back that had little or nothing to do with the return. I think we’ll see more of those from him in the games and years to come.
- HC Kirk Ferentz Pass+ (Pass / Fail)
- That makes two “Pass+” grades for Kirk this season. Ohio State was the other one. About everything that could go right did.
- OC Brian Ferentz A+
- Brian has had his moments – good and bad – in his first season as the Hawkeyes play-caller. Inconsistent – just like his offense has been overall. He’s had two brilliant games – Nebraska and Ohio State – where everything worked.
- DC Phil Parker A+
- Great game plan and schemes, terrific in-game execution. That last time I wrote those exact same words: Ohio State.
Prefense Defensive Player of the Week
You often hear Iowa Coaches using the term “balance” to describe their offensive goals in each game. Well, that very phrase perfectly sums up the Iowa Defensive performance in this game. There were no outstanding “stars” – just solid play from every position for most of the game. So the Prefense DPOTW for the Nebraska game goes to the entire defense.
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T&K Roofing & Sheet Metal Coach of the Week
This week’s award – like after the win over the Buckeyes – is a three-way tie: Head Coach Kirk Ferentz, Offensive Coordinator Brian Ferentz, Defensive Coordinator Phil Parker. Iowa played two incredibly “complete” games this season (so far), dominating in every phase. This was the second one of those.
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Please remember, as always, these are subjective observations and open to debate and discussion more often than not. Agree or disagree – that’s part of the fun of college football.
The final game stats are below on the following page.
Iowa – Nebraska Week Content is at HawkeyesMic.com/Football.