Wadley’s rushing leads Hawkeyes past Huskers

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Wadley’s rushing leads Hawkeyes past Huskers

Iowa running back Akrum Wadley sheds a tackle during the Iowa/Nebraska football game in Memorial Stadium on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cornhuskers, 56-14. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa running back Akrum Wadley sheds a tackle during the Iowa/Nebraska football game in Memorial Stadium on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cornhuskers, 56-14. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Josep

Iowa running back Akrum Wadley sheds a tackle during the Iowa/Nebraska football game in Memorial Stadium on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cornhuskers, 56-14. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Josep

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Josep

Iowa running back Akrum Wadley sheds a tackle during the Iowa/Nebraska football game in Memorial Stadium on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cornhuskers, 56-14. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

Adam Hensley, [email protected]

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No Iowa running back had notched back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons since Fred Russel in 2002 and 2003 until Akrum Wadley etched his name in Black and Gold history on Nov. 24 against Nebraska.

Wadley needed 138 yards to reach the 1,000-yard mark for the season, and he rambled for 159, averaging more than 8 yards per carry.

“I felt like this was like a Super Bowl to me, just to leave the jersey in a better place,” Wadley said.

Nebraska couldn’t find an answer for any of Iowa’s tailbacks — the Hawkeyes ran for 313 yards as a team — but Wadley left the Husker defenders scratching their heads time and time again in Iowa’s 56-14 win.

His first touchdown came on a third down, when offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz opted to go with a run. His decision paid off, mainly because of Wadley’s ability to cut inside when the defense converged to the left side of the line.

But Wadley’s score came after two major early game mishaps.

Iowa found itself down 7 early on after punter Colten Rastetter dropped the snap, resulting in a turnover on downs and setting the Huskers up at the Hawkeye 15-yard line.

Another special teams gaffe — this one by Imhir Smith-Marsette after he stepped out at Iowa’s 1-yard line on a kickoff — set the Hawkeyes back again, but the offense kept its focus, even with the long field.

“That’s a lead balloon,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said about Iowa’s kick-return meltdown. “But the offense really responded there. That’s really the story this week for our team. We haven’t been moving the ball with great consistency.”

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Iowa drove 99 yards, capping off the 15-play, 7:18 drive with Wadley’s 25-yard score – his first of three trips to the end zone in Lincoln.

Wadley’s touchdown count began to pile up, especially in the third quarter when he scored his next two, but he had to remember to keep his emotions in check and avoid ticky-tack penalties for high-stepping, something he learned after a big catch-and-run touchdown got taken back against North Texas with an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty.

“Every time I scored, the ref was right there — don’t do it, don’t do it,” he said.

Iowa’s aerial attack brought its a-game to complement Wadley and Company’s big afternoon. Stanley completed 13 of his 20 pass attempts for 192 yards and 2 touchdowns, with no interceptions.

Tight end Noah Fant hauled in both of Stanley’s scoring tosses, one coming in the dwindling seconds of the first half and the other coming on a long catch and run — 68 yards to be exact.

Fant said after the game that while running success on the ground game “opened up [Iowa’s] passing game very well.”

The defense was clicking, too. It held Nebraska to only 12 first downs and 67 rushing yards. Overall, the Hawkeye defense held the Husker offense to 267 yards. In the second half, Iowa shut out Nebraska.

“We had some communication errors [in the first half] … it was good to come back in the second half and fix most of those and keep their drives short, mostly a lot of three-and-outs,” linebacker Josey Jewell said.

That balance is something the Hawkeye offense and defense have been searching for all season long, especially since the big win over Ohio State on Nov. 4 when all phases of play clicked.

Specifically, however, the running game hasn’t always been there for Iowa this season. In the previous two games against Wisconsin and Purdue, both Hawkeye losses, Iowa didn’t gain more than 82 yards on the ground in either contest (against the Badgers, the Hawkeyes only mustered 25 yards).

When asked if while playing against Nebraska, he was working out his frustrations, Wadley had a simple response.

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