Grading Iowa football’s 24-17 loss to Nebraska

Daily Iowan Sports Editor Chloe Peterson graded the Hawkeyes in all three phases following their first loss to Nebraska since 2014.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Iowa quarterback Alex Padilla throws the ball during a football game between Iowa and Nebraska at Kinnick Stadium on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022. Padilla had 141 passing yards. The Huskers defeated the Hawkeyes, 24-17.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor

Not much went right for the Iowa football team on Friday afternoon. With five starters out of the game, the Hawkeyes lost to the Cornhuskers, 24-17.

Along with surrendering the Heroes Trophy for the first time since 2014, the Hawkeyes also lost control of the Big Ten West. Iowa only needed a win over Nebraska to become the West Division champions. 

The Hawkeyes worked through multiple injuries on Friday as quarterback Spencer Petras and cornerback Cooper DeJean both left the game in the first quarter. Tight end Sam LaPorta and fullback Monte Pottebaum sustained injuries against Minnesota on Nov. 19 and did not play Friday.

After the Hawkeyes’ first loss to the Cornhuskers since 2014, Daily Iowan Sports Editor Chloe Peterson graded Iowa in all three phases of the game.

Offense — C-

Iowa’s offense did not take care of the ball on Friday afternoon, recording two fumbles, a turnover on downs, and an interception.

Petras was struggling at the beginning of the game. He went just 1-of-6 for 9 yards before fumbling the ball on a strip sack. Petras was injured on the first-quarter sack. He exited the game with an 88.3 quarterback rating.

Then, backup quarterback Alex Padilla came into the game. 

Padilla fumbled the ball on a sack in his first drive since Week 8, allowing Nebraska to recover the ball on Iowa’s 39-yard line. The 6-foot-1 junior settled into the position after that, completing 16-of-33 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown. 

His next miscue, however, came at a crucial time. Padilla threw an interception on the Hawkeyes’ final drive of the game with 42 seconds left, sealing the Cornhuskers’ victory.

The Hawkeyes also turned the ball over on downs late in the game after officials deemed a near-30-yard catch by wide receiver Arland Bruce to be an incompletion. Referees said Bruce stepped out of bounds before securing Padilla’s pass.

To give the Hawkeye offense credit, they did mount a comeback in the second half of the game. True freshman running back Kaleb Johnson exploded for a 44-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and sophomore tight end Luke Lachey grabbed a 14-yard reception from Padilla in the fourth.

Kicker Drew Stevens also connected on a 45-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, cutting the Hawkeyes’ deficit to seven points. 

Defense — C

DeJean is only one player on an 11-man defense, but the Hawkeyes greatly missed his defensive skills on Friday afternoon.

The sophomore went down with an injury after absorbing a hard block from Nebraska’s Marcus Washington just two minutes into the game. DeJean walked to the medical tent under his own power, but he was quickly ruled out for the rest of the game.

True freshman cornerback TJ Hall replaced DeJean, and Nebraska took advantage. On the Cornhuskers’ next drive, quarterback Casey Thompson lobbed an 87-yard touchdown throw past Hall and to wide receiver Trey Palmer for Nebraska’s first score of the day. 

Hall and sophomore Jamison Heinz, who usually backs up cornerback Riley Moss, traded reps at left corner on Friday afternoon. All three of Nebraska’s passing touchdowns came against Hall or Heinz. 

Overall, the Hawkeyes could not stop the Huskers’ air raid. Nebraska finished the game with 278 passing yards, including 165 to Palmer. 

Nebraska’s 17-point lead after 30 minutes was the largest halftime deficit Iowa has faced this season. The Hawkeyes contained the Huskers in the second half, however, allowing just seven points in the final 30 minutes.

Special teams — C-

A muffed punt was one of the nails in the Hawkeyes’ coffin on Friday.

With DeJean out for the game, Bruce fielded punts for the Hawkeyes. He fumbled a punt in the third quarter, and Nebraska recovered the ball at Iowa’s 18-yard line. The Cornhuskers converted the 18-yard field into a touchdown.

Bruce finished the game with two punt returns for -2 yards.

Punter Tory Taylor was up to his usual strength on Friday afternoon, booting five balls for 214 yards — an average of 42.8 yards per kick.

Stevens made his lone field goal attempt from 45 yards out in the fourth quarter. The true freshman is 16-of-18 on field goal attempts this season.