Iowa football drops senior day game to Nebraska, loses control of Big Ten West

The Hawkeyes lost to the Cornhuskers, 24-17, for the first time since 2014.

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Ayrton Breckenridge

Iowa quarterback Alex Padilla gets up with the help of Iowa offensive lineman Mason Richman after getting sacked during a football game between Iowa and Nebraska at Kinnick Stadium on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022. The Huskers lead the Hawkeyes at halftime, 17-0.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor


The Iowa football offense went 3-and-out in its first drive its game against Nebraska on Friday afternoon, and it all went downhill from there. The Hawkeyes dropped the final game of the season, 24-17, to the Cornhuskers, to move to 7-5 on the season and 5-4 in the Big Ten.

Iowa came into this game controlling its own fate in the Big Ten West. The Hawkeyes lost that control with their first loss to the Huskers since 2014.

“It’s tough,” sophomore tight end Luke Lachey said. “We never want to lose to Nebraska in the Heroes Game, so it’s hard. The seniors played really tough. They are a great group of guys, and we are disappointed we could not get it done for them.”

For Iowa to still be the West representative in the Big Ten Championship Game, Illinois will have to lose to Northwestern and Purdue will have to lose to Indiana on Saturday. Purdue, at 5-3 in the conference, now controls its own fate for the West. 

The Hawkeyes went 2-of-4 in trophy games this season. Iowa took down Wisconsin and Minnesota for the Heartland and Floyd of Rosedale trophies, respectively, and lost the Cy-Hawk Trophy to Iowa State and the Heroes Trophy to Nebraska.

Hawkeye mistakes lead to Cornhusker dominance

After the Cornhuskers failed to convert a field goal at the beginning of the game, they tallied an 87-yard receiving touchdown to Trey Palmer on their second drive of the game.

Hawkeye quarterback Spencer Petras fumbled the ball in the first quarter, leading to a Nebraska conversion. Kicker Timmy Bleekrode completed his second attempt of the game from 21 yards.

Quarterback Alex Padilla turned the ball over in the second quarter, and Nebraska took advantage. QB Casey Thompson completed a 39-yard drive with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Palmer.

“We just didn’t execute the way we wanted to,” Padilla said. “Turnovers are killer against Big Ten teams. If you are down in the turnover margin, you are probably not going to win the game. We gave ourselves a chance at the end, but another turnover killed us. Just didn’t execute well enough. I thought our guys fought really hard.”

Nebraska gave Iowa its largest halftime deficit of the season on Friday. The Hawkeyes trailed the Cornhuskers by 17 points. The Cornhuskers scored again in the third quarter after Hawkeye wide receiver Arland Bruce fumbled a punt that Nebraska recovered at the 18-yard line.

Hawkeyes claw back into contention

The Hawkeyes made a dent in the Cornhuskers’ lead at the eight-minute mark of the third quarter when true freshman running back Kaleb Johnson ran 44 yards for Iowa’s first score of the day.

Lachey also caught a touchdown pass from Padilla with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter.

The Hawkeye defense forced a fumble at the Nebraska 27-yard line with six minutes left in the fourth quarter. While the Hawkeye offense could not get a first down, kicker Drew Stevens converted on a 45-yard field goal to cut the Hawkeyes’ deficit to seven.

Cooper DeJean, Spencer Petras injured

Iowa lost two of its biggest playmakers in the first quarter of the contest on Friday.

Sophomore cornerback Cooper DeJean sustained an injury in the first quarter after absorbing a block from Nebraska’s Marcus Washington. DeJean laid face down on the turf while athletic trainers checked on him, and he later retreated into the medical tent.

DeJean eventually returned to the sidelines in street clothes and was ruled out of the game. True freshman TJ Hall entered the game for DeJean and allowed an 87-yard touchdown for Nebraska’s first score of the game. Sophomore Jamison Heinz replaced Hall in the second quarter, but Nebraska’s scoring didn’t stop. Nebraska’s three passing touchdowns all came against Iowa’s backup corner.

“I feel like we always talk about next man in mentality, but seeing one of our guys down on the field like that … I’m not sure how to say it,” defensive lineman Noah Shannon said. “At the end of the day, it pushed us harder to fight for him and get [DeJean’s] back. I feel like we needed to create a spark play and we ended up doing that, we brought the game back within seven. We fought. Our effort and intensity were definitely there. Just needed to start it a little earlier.”

 

Petras suffered his injury later in the first quarter when he was strip sacked by Nebraska’s Quinton Newsome. The three-year starter went into the medical tent to be evaluated, and backup QB Alex Padilla entered the game. 

While Petras stayed fully dressed on the sidelines, his right arm was in a sling. Petras went just 1-of-6 for 9 yards and a fumble in his Senior Day game. 

Padilla entered the game for Petras in the first quarter and played out the rest of the contest. Padilla committed two turnovers — a fumble and an interception — and went 16-of-33 for 141 yards and a touchdown.

“Not a whole lot of thinking goes into it,” Padilla said. “Spencer couldn’t go the rest of the way. I just tried to go in and do my job as best as I can. Put my helmet on. When I got in, there were a little bit of nerves, but once I started playing, it was as I know it. I had done it before. So, it was not too different from what I’ve done before.”

Big picture

The Hawkeyes’ postseason plans are up in the air. Iowa has a slim chance to still go to the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis on Dec. 3.

If Purdue or Illinois win on Saturday, the 7-5 Hawkeyes will find out where they’re going bowling on Dec. 4.

“The opportunity to throw the tigerhawk on the side of your head and put that jersey on, that is something that every kid should try to seize,” senior linebacker Jack Campbell said. “Right now, my main focus is pushing forward. We have another game, and we are all looking forward to that.”

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