Iowa failed to convert first-half opportunities into points, which cost the Hawkeyes in a 13-7 loss to Nebraska on Friday.
Twice Iowa recovered Nebraska fumbles in decent field position. The first was on a dropped punt by Ameer Abdullah, which Iowa’s Micah Hyde recovered at the Hawkeyes’ 41. Iowa drove to the Nebraska 40 and faced second-and-2. The sequence turned into a 1-yard run, an incomplete pass and a 1-yard loss on fourth down.
Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez fumbled on the next possession and Iowa recovered at the Cornhuskers’ 48. Iowa drove to the 31 but punted into the wind.
“We had an opportunity twice, on the punt and another time,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “In a game like this, you would hope it would change field position dramatically or better yet come out with points.”
BY THE NUMBERS
3 — Combined penalties for both teams
3.2 — Yards per play, a season low for Iowa
3.8 — Yards per passing attempt for Iowa
6 — Consecutive losses by Iowa, the school’s worst streak since losing 13 straight in 1999 and 2000
7 — Touchdown passes this season for Iowa
8 — Interceptions this season for Iowa
19 — Iowa seniors who played their final game
D – Iowa’s next bowl will be . . . and when . . .? I don’t see a lot of 2013 guesses out there.
- Marc Morehouse
C – The defense kept it close. So, good job, defense.
- Mike Hlas
C — A good-to-decent Iowa team would have won that game. Pick any version from 2001-2011.
- Scott Dochterman
FADE TO BLACK
Down 13-7, Iowa had one final chance late in the game. The Hawkeyes drove to their 39 and quarterback James Vandenberg approached the line with an empty backfield. Iowa tight end Henry Krieger-Coble ran a slant but Nebraska linebacker Alonzo Whaley stepped in front of Krieger-Coble for the game-clinching interception with 2:11 left in the game.
“They’re bringing six guys and we’ve only got five guys blocking, we’ve got to break off a slant and get the ball out,” Vandenberg said. “Henry broke the slant on the guy and he’s a 240-pound middle linebacker, and you don’t expect him to make the play that he did. He made a great play, he broke on it just like a DB would kind of stepped in front of Henry and made a good play.”
James Vandenberg ended his Iowa career by completing 11-of-24 passes for 92 yards and two interceptions. He finished his career with 507 completions (sixth best in Iowa history) for 5,786 yards (seventh best).
His final pass as a Hawkeye was intercepted by Nebraska linebacker Alonzo Whaley. Ironically, Vandenberg’s first pass at Kinnick Stadium also was intercepted by a linebacker, Northwestern’s Quentin Davie.
“It might be the proper way to go out,” Vandenberg said. “That’s something … kind of leaves a pit in my stomach forever maybe. It certainly won’t overshadow all the experiences I’ve had here over the last five years.”
Vandenberg, a Keokuk native, finished his career 12-15 as a starter.
Nineteen seniors closed the book on their Iowa careers Friday. Some wept, like center James Ferentz. Senior cornerback Micah Hyde, Iowa’s top NFL draft prospect, called the moment “bittersweet” as he left Kinnick Stadium for the final time.
“You can’t really put it into words how fast it went,” Hyde said. “It hit me definitely when I left the field, then in the locker room one last time with everybody in there and everybody around as a team. But it’s difficult.”
Hyde was a prime contributor on special teams as a true freshman, when Iowa started 9-0 and finished 11-2. Ten different defensive players from the 2009 team were drafted and four others signed free-agent contracts.
“I just think maybe I was a little bit spoiled as a freshman, coming in just seeing how successful we were and maybe thinking we got this down,” Hyde said.
Hyde recovered a fumble for the second straight week and returned a punt 29 yards against Nebraska. He ended his career with 240 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, eight interceptions, 29 pass breakups and three defensive touchdowns.
“He’s the kind of guy that you want, first of all, leading your program,” Ferentz said.
Iowa’s defense kept the team in the game throughout, holding the Cornhuskers to 10 points below their lowest scoring output this season. Nebraska’s total offense was 63 yards below their previous low and its 3.8 yards-per-play average was 1.71 yards below its average.
“It was a simple game plan,” Hyde said. “We had our base defenses. We changed it according to personnel, You didn’t see us run out there with the nickel and dime and all that stuff, trying to confuse ourselves too much because we knew that they were going to ground it and pound it down our throats.”
Iowa held only one other team (Iowa State) to fewer than 13 points this year.
“I don’t know if our shortcomings have ever really been from a lack of effort; maybe you could say that against Purdue at times,” Iowa linebacker James Morris said. “That’s tough to swallow when that’s the case. I’d like to think that we’re proud enough or we have enough pride that anytime we go out and play we’re going to give it our best.”
Iowa couldn’t sustain anything of substance in the second half. The Hawkeyes ran 27 plays for 70 yards. They converted just 1-of-7 third-down opportunities and picked up only four first downs.
Iowa freshman defensive tackle Darian Cooper started his first game as a Hawkeye. He replaced injured senior Joe Gaglione in the starting lineup.
Iowa and Nebraska concluded their second meeting as Big Ten brethren, and Nebraska defended its “Heroes Trophy.” Morris said he hasn’t placed Nebraska ahead of any other opponent on Iowa’s schedule.
“I think of everybody the same,” he said. “I don’t think of anybody to be this or that. They are our opponent, and we respect them. Obviously some opponents, the games are tougher than others. But we try to beat them, that’s really all I think about it.”
Iowa is 1-7 in its last trophy games. Next year the Hawkeyes get a crack at all four, but three (Iowa State, Minnesota, Nebraska) are on the road. Only Wisconsin (Nov. 2) is at Kinnick Stadium.
AND FINALLY …
Iowa’s streak of beating either a BCS or a team with at least 10 wins extended with the season. Iowa beat Rose Bowl teams Illinois in 2007 and Penn State in 2008. In 2009 Iowa beat Georgia Tech (Orange Bowl), Wisconsin (10 wins) and Penn State (11 wins). In 2010, Iowa topped Michigan State (11 wins) and last year beat 11-win Michigan (Sugar Bowl). Northern Illinois (11-1) suffered its only loss this year to Iowa (18-17) in the opener.