IOWA CITY -
Nebraska played kick the can like a bunch of school boys during recess. Actually, the Cornhuskers kicked the McCann, as in Iowa's life-sized quarterback Kyle McCann, all day Saturday and up and down Kinnick Stadium.
The Huskers, whose defense is nicknamed the blackshirts, wore out Iowa's black jerseys. McCann was sacked three times and was knocked a ton. After Saturday, McCann knows how the rodent feels in the popular arcade game Whack-a-Mole.
"A couple times, I didn't think he was going to get back up," Nebraska defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said. "You've got to give the kid credit. He came back every time."
The Huskers expect this. This is a football team that expects to keep its ERA around 0.00. And when it doesn't, it's all the talk after a 42-7 head-butting.
Iowa's only score came when Tim Dodge returned a blocked punt 10 yards with 2:30 left. This came against much of the second-unit punt team, but that didn't matter, it still didn't sit well.
"That hurt real bad," defensive back Ralph Brown said. "We worked so hard to keep that zero up there. It hurt. Even though it was just special teams, it hurt. The defense worked hard to keep that up there, and we lost it at the end because of the special teams."
It was just a blocked punt, against the second team, at the end of a blowout. Yeah, sure, that's not what you want. But when you're Nebraska, there's only fine tuning.
And besides, the only fans left in Kinnick were the red-clad Nebraskans. They made Kinnick a punchline Saturday, as in what's black, white and red all over.
When you have a perfect game going, everyone dwells on the weak dribbler to left.
"I feel a little badly for (the defense), because they really played shutout defense," Nebraska Coach Frank Solich said.
The Huskers allowed just 57 rushing yards - an average of 2.2 on 26 carries - and 169 yards total offense. Iowa made just eight first downs and didn't get its first until 3:36 in the second quarter when McCann completed a 6-yard pass to tight end Austin Wheatley.
It was hard to tell if the applause from the Kinnick crowd was out of derision or relief.
"At Nebraska, we set high expectations," middle linebacker Carlos Polk said. "When they got that first down, we were disappointed. And when they got that drive going, we were disappointed. That's our mentality. On defense this year, we want to play every play to its full potential."
Iowa doesn't appear to have any answers for last year's
plague of quarterback sacks.
The Hawkeyes lost their top three QBs at different times last season while the offensive line allowed 52 sacks.
During ABC's telecast Saturday there was a montage of McCann sacks and knockdowns.
It looked like something out of a mosh pit.
"WE KEPT HITTING him and staying after him," Polk said, "but he kept getting up. You've got to commend him for that. He played with a lot of heart."
It's football season, and, for now, that's open season on Iowa quarterbacks.