LINCOLN, Neb. — The Marvin McNutt party came to a grinding halt.
Iowa’s senior wide receiver rode an amazing wave into Friday’s 20-7 defeat at Nebraska. He led the Big Ten in record countdowns and made Iowa’s offense formidable over the last six weeks.
Against the Cornhuskers and, namely, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, the party was broken up, and so were a lot of passes.
“Yes,” McNutt said when asked if he saw a lot of the Nebraska cornerback. It was affirmative again when he was asked if it was one-on-one exclusively.
“Most of the time,” McNutt said.
Or all of the time.
“Everywhere he goes, the coaches just told me, go follow him,” Dennard said.
McNutt, whose painful day was compounded by two drops on the first series, wasn’t a factor. He went into Iowa’s last drive — which was nothing, really, trailing 20-0 late in the fourth — with two catches for 1 yard. Those numbers stood out and were a huge reason why Iowa’s offense simply looked unplugged. McNutt finished with four catches for 29 yards, but those came on the last drive.
“Dennard is a helluva corner,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Dennard is a stocky 5-foot-10, 205 pounds. He put the muscles to use on McNutt, who at 6-4, held the advantage in reach. Strength went to Dennard and that was the plan.
“I’m just trying to go out there and just frustrate him a lot, just get my hands on him and be physical and just try to cause him to turn over the ball,” Dennard said.
Dennard, who held Michigan State’s B.J. Cunningham to zero catches, put the time in the video room to use in this matchup. He picked up on a tendency that allowed him to make a quick read and break on every one of McNutt’s moves.
“He’s got like one move off the ball, so I kind of studied his moves,” Dennard said. “If he jabs outside, he’s going inside. If he jabs inside, then he’s going outside. So, I was kind of studying that.
“So, I was kind of ready for that.”
It was McNutt’s lowest output of the season. He caught four passes twice this year, but had more yards in both of those games (Iowa State and Penn State).
“I just have to keep working,” McNutt said. “There are always things you can work on. He’s a good player, but we just didn’t execute on offense today. That’s what it comes down to.”
He’s right. McNutt wasn’t going to beat Nebraska by himself. The “triple threat” of McNutt, quarterback James Vandenberg and running back Marcus Coker was held in check.
The three came in averaging 469.11 yards of offense a game. They produced just 298 against the Huskers, bump it up 50 yards when you throw in Coker’s receiving and Vandenberg’s scrambles. But when you’re counting Coker receiving and Vandenberg running, you know Nebraska controlled the game.
“We weren’t effective enough spreading it around,” Ferentz said. “When they take one thing away, we’ve got to find other places to go. Everybody’s got a hand in that.”
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