The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa football prevails, 13-10, over Nebraska in final minute of mayhem

After the Hawkeyes and Cornhuskers swapped interceptions late in the fourth quarter, backup kicker Marshall Meeder nailed a 38-yarder for the win.
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Cody Blissett
Iowa’s Marshall Meeder kicks a 33-yard game-winning field goal during a football game between Iowa and Nebraska at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln Nebraska on Friday, Nov. 23, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cornhuskers, 13-10.

LINCOLN, Neb. — The Iowa football team defeated Nebraska, 13-10, Friday on the road at Memorial Stadium. In a game with a kickoff temperature of 26 degrees, the Iowa offense froze in the second half, notching just two first downs, but was assisted by a stout defense that gave the Hawkeyes a chance to ice the game in the final seconds.

“The bottom line is, football is not a beauty contest,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said in his postgame press conference. “It’s not a gymnastics meet where you get style points. It’s about finding a way to be successful and win the game.”

With the Cornhuskers in control of their own destiny with less than a minute to go, Iowa defensive lineman Ethan Hurkett snared an interception. Twenty-two yards later, in his first boot in a Hawkeye uniform, backup kicker Marshall Meeder nailed a 38-yard field goal for the win, securing just the fourth 10-win regular season during Ferentz’s tenure.

The Hawkeye offense struggled at the outset, gaining 38 yards on 14 plays during its first two drives. Yet as has been the pattern throughout the season, the offense was given its first red zone chance of the day on a fumble recovery during a punt return.  

Starting with the ball on the Cornhuskers’ 17-yard line, Iowa receiver Kaleb Brown ran 11 yards on an end around, but on the very next play, the Hawkeyes were whistled for an illegal shift, pushing them back to the 11-yard line.

After this setback, Iowa gained four more yards and opted for the field goal, but was flagged for a delay of game penalty. Now kicking from 20 yards out, Drew Stevens’ attempt was blocked by Husker Ty Robinson to keep the contest scoreless. 

On its next drive, the unit found some life, driving 52 yards on seven plays for a touchdown. The trip to the end zone was highlighted by a 37-yard pass from quarterback Deacon Hill to tight end Steven Stilianos. 

On its second visit to the red zone, the offense faltered with two straight stuffed runs before tight end Addison Ostrenga pushed Hill across the goal line on a QB sneak to secure the lead. 

On the ensuing Nebraska possession, the Hawkeye defense let up a 22-yard toss from Husker QB Chubba Purdy. The very next snap, coordinator Phil Parker’s unit made up for the miscue and then some, as defensive back Sebastian Castro dislodged the football from Purdy for the Hawkeyes’ second turnover of the day. 

Starting from the Nebraska 44-yard line, Iowa again got to the red zone on a nine-yard pass to Brown, who bounced off offensive lineman Connor Colby for a gain down the sideline. Then, from the eight-yard line, the Hawkeyes gained one yard on their next three plays, all rushes. Stevens made good on his second attempt, nailing a 28-yarder to extend the lead to 10-0. 

The shutout did not last for long, however, as the Cornhuskers answered swiftly with a score of their own. Hawkeye safeties Quinn Schulte and Xavier Nwankpa both faked a blitz on third down but failed to get back in time, as Purdy launched a 66-yard touchdown bomb to receiver Jaylen Lloyd. The play was the longest score Iowa has given up since Week 3 this year against Western Michigan. 

“We gave up a big play, and obviously we want to limit those, but I said to my guys in the locker room, ‘I understand the assignment. We understand the assignment,'” Iowa linebacker Jay Higgins said. “I had a bunch of guys ready to fight for the win. Nobody started pointing fingers, that’s what we’re all about.”

On its next drive, Iowa got the red zone for the fourth time, this time due to a 53-yard scamper from Williams, his third rush of at least 50 yards this season.

“I got to give credit to the offensive line, you know, they gave me a lot of space, and that’s what I’m best at,” Williams said. “Opening up a lot of holes, having more experience, staying on track, and trusting the play call.”

But once again, the Hawkeyes couldn’t take flight near the goal line, advancing for two yards on three plays, as Brown dropped a pass in the end zone on third-and-goal. 

Lining up for his third field goal, Stevens’ 24-yarder was again blocked, this time from Husker Nash Hutmacher. At the break, the Hawkeyes amassed 200 total yards on 12 first downs, holding the Huskers to 118 total yards on three first downs, but still found themselves up three points, as they were 2-for-4 in the red zone at the break. 

“We can’t miss those opportunities,” Ferentz said of Iowa’s miscues. “So if we have that chance, they’re going to be tough to get, but we have to cash in if we’re going to win. And then, we just have to play to our strengths, whatever our strengths are right now … That’s the premise to winning, just make the plays that are doable.”

Hill, hailing from Santa Barbara, California, said Friday’s game was by far the coldest one he’s played in, but maintained he wore short sleeves under his uniform to “make a statement.” Finishing the first half with 8-of-17 passing and 74 yards, Hill wasn’t deterred by the situation.

“You just keep pushing, I mean, I think I’ve said that every week,” he said. “It doesn’t mean anything more than that. Just keeping forward … Just one snap after the other.”

Kicking off to start the second half, Stevens’ offering sailed out of bounds for a penalty. Starting at its own 35-yard line. This was just the start of a mundane third quarter, where Iowa gained a total of 19 yards without mounting a first down. 

Highlighted by a 25-yard competition from Purdy to wideout Josh Fleeks on third-and-11, Nebraska got within field-goal range and converted the three-pointer from 44 yards out. 

The Cornhuskers again got within field goal range in the fourth quarter following a 10-play, 24-yard drive that ate up more than six minutes of clock. This time, however, Husker kicker Tristain Alvano’s 44-yard offering sailed wide left. 

On the following Hawkeye drive, Hill’s shovel pass to Ostrenga on third-and-2 marked Iowa’s first first down of the half. Yet that was all the offense could muster on the drive, as Tory Taylor punted for the seventh time on the day. 

Following a Nebraska punt, Iowa had the ball with 55 seconds left deep in its own territory, and on third down, Hill’s desperation pass to receiver Nico Ragaini was picked off by Nebraska’s Tommi Hill. Yet after the interception, Nebraska was penalized for a defensive holding to push the ball back 10 yards to its own 45-yard line. 

Calling the turnover a “miscommunication” between him and the wideouts, Hill took responsibility for the costly giveaway but knew that Iowa’s “best in the country defense” would pick up the slack.

“We had faith that our defense would give us the stop, force overtime, or give us the ball back … We’re like, ‘Alright, we’ve got one more chance at this. Let’s just keep it going.”

The quarterback’s prognostication proved correct. Just two plays later, the Hawkeye defense shocked the home crowd with its own turnover, as Iowa defensive lineman Ethan Hurkett snagged a Purdy pass and returned the ball 10 yards to give the Hawkeyes another shot at an improbable victory. 

“It just goes back to what [Kirk] Ferentz says, it’s about complimentary football,” Hurkett said of his play. “Just everybody doing their job. If we can all do that, it’s going to end up a good product.”

That good product was further ensured with a 22-yard scamper by Williams to open the drive. Then, from 38 yards out, Iowa kicker Marshall Meeder, a transfer from Central Michigan, proved the hero on his first-ever kick in the Black and Gold.

Notified by the coaching staff at halftime that he would most likely get in the game in the second half, Meeder said his attempt was a feat he’s done “a million times” before, but maintained his offering was the most dramatic of his career, by far.

Under the anxious views of 86,000-plus fans, Meeder’s offering was low to the ground, and nearly blocked, but just cleared the crossbar, good enough for a win. After being engulfed by a swarm of teammates at midfield, Meeder said his first field goal attempt since Nov. 16, 2022, was the play of his career. 

“That’s every kicker’s dream,” he said. “I was thinking of that moment since I started kicking as a freshman [in high school]. I’m just happy to be there for my team.”

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About the Contributors
Matt McGowan, Pregame Editor
he/him/his Matt McGowan is The Daily Iowan's Pregame Editor. He is a sophomore double majoring in journalism and mass communications and American studies with a minor in sport studies.  This is his second year with the DI
Cody Blissett, Visuals Editor
he/him/his
Cody Blissett is a visual editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a third year student at the University of Iowa studying cinema and screenwriting. This is his first year working for The Daily Iowan.