Lincoln – Nebraska was outscored 42-0 in the second half and dropped its season finale 56-14 loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes (7-5, 4-5 Big Ten) in front of 90,046 fans on Senior Day at Memorial Stadium on Friday.
The attendance of 90,046 marked the second-largest crowd of the season, trailing a season-high of 90,171 for the season opener.
The Hawkeyes won the Heroes Trophy for the third straight year and notched their third straight victory in Lincoln dating back to 2013.
The Huskers (4-8, 3-6) lost four straight to end the season, finished with their fewest wins since 1961, and lost five home games for the first time since 1957.
The Huskers allowed five opponents to score more than 40 points, and they became the second team in program history to give up more than 400 in a season. Nebraska allowed at least 199 yards rushing in the last seven games.
Coach Mike Riley is 19-19 in three seasons, with last year's loss at Iowa starting a 10-losses-in-14-games slide. The Huskers have dropped 12 of 18 since opening last season 7-0 and ranked No. 7.
A bright spot for the Huskers was junior wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr., who finished the day with 74 yards on seven catches and both of Nebraska’s touchdowns.
Morgan finished the 2017 campaign with 986 yards, breaking Johnny Rodgers’ single-season record of 942 yards in 1972. Morgan came up 14 yards shy of becoming NU’s first 1,000-yard receiver.
Senior Drew Brown connected on both of his PATs and finished his Husker career with 355 points, ranking fourth all-time in school history.
The Huskers caught the first break of the game when the Blackshirts forced a 3-and-out on Iowa’s first possession of the game and Iowa punter Colten Rastetter fumbled the snap. Rastetter was tackled at his own 15-yard line, and three plays later the Huskers were on the board when Morgan Jr. made a one-handed catch in the endzone on third down. Following the PAT from Brown, the Huskers led 7-0.
On the ensuing kickoff the Hawkeyes committed another special teams mistake when Ihmir Smith-Marsette fielded the ball at his own one-yard line and then stepped out-of-bounds. With its back at the goaline, Iowa’s offense responded with a 99-yard scoring drive over 15 plays that spanned 7:18. The Hawkeyes notched five first downs on the drive, including one on 4th-and-1 at the Nebraska 49-yard line. Running back Akrum Wadley capped the drive with a 20-yard run on 3rd-and-8.
Nebraska came back with a lengthy drive of its own, as it ate 5:58 off the clock and went 51 yards over 11 plays. Facing 4th-and-2 at the Iowa 19 the Huskers were lined up for a go-ahead field goal, but instead NU dialed up a trick play with holder Zack Darlington tossing a shovel pass to Luke McNitt who was tackled for a five-yard loss, leaving the game tied 7-7.
The Husker defense forced a quick punt and then Lee went back to work on a 75-yard scoring drive. Lee was 4-for-6 for 60 yards on the drive, including a 28-yard touchdown pass to Morgan.
The game turned on the next series. The Huskers forced a 3-and-out, but were flagged for running into the kicker, allowing the Hawkeyes to keep the drive going and tie the game on 3rd-and-goal when quarterback Nate Stanley found Omaha native Noah Fant for a four-yard touchdown pass.
Following the kickoff the Huskers had 20 seconds on the clock, but ran one play and the teams headed to the locked room knotted at 14.
Smith-Marsette redeemed himself to start the second half with a 74-yard kickoff return. The freshman took the kickoff all the way to the endzone, but a block in the back at the Nebraska 12-yard line wiped away the touchdown. Five plays later Wadley picked up his second touchdown of the game with a one-yard run.
After NU’s offense went 3-and-out a 36-yard punt was returned 14 yards and the Hawkeyes had the ball at their own 40-yard line. Stanley hit Fant for 44 yards on the first play of the drive and then James Bulter ran 12 yards into the endzone.
Nebraska’s next drive lasted just two plays, with Ben Niemann intercepting a Lee pass on second down at the Nebraska 40. Wadley ran 11 yards on the first play of the drive and then went 29 yards over left tackle for his third touchdown of the game. Following the PAT, Iowa’s lead was 35-14 with 8:32 left in the third quarter.
Following a 3-and-out from the NU offense the Hawkeyes again drove into NU territory where they were faced with 4th-and-2 at the 29-yard line. Iowa chose to go for it on fourth down, but couldn’t convert as Ben Stille and Chris Weber stopped Butler one-yard short of the first down. The Huskers then moved the ball into Iowa territory and were stopped on fourth down at the Iowa 32.
Iowa quickly found the endzone once again. Stanley threw an incomplete pass on first down before he connected with Fant for a 68-yard touchdown pass, Iowa’s fourth touchdown of the third quarter.
All four of Iowa’s scoring drives in the third quarter took five plays or less, including three drives that were just two plays each.
The teams traded 3-and-outs before Iowa recorded its second turnover of the game when Lee’s 15th interception of the season was hauled in by Josey Jewell.
Seven plays later the third Hawkeye of the day scored on the ground, with Toren Young rushing three yards for his second touchdown of the season. The score pushed Iowa’s lead to 49-14. Following a NU 3-and-out a fourth Hawkeye scored on the ground with Ivory Kelly-Martin finishing a three-play scoring drive that covered 65 yards. It was Iowa’s sixth rushing touchdown of the game.
Iowa 56, Nebraska 14
Friday, Nov. 24, 2017
First Quarter (7-7)
NU - 9:34 – Stanley Morgan Jr. 14 pass from Tanner Lee (Drew Brown kick), 3 plays, 15 yards, 0:43, NU 7-0
IOWA – 2:16 – Akrum Wadley 20 rush (Miguel Recinos kick), 15 plays, 99 yards, 7:18, 7-7
Second Quarter (14-14)
NU – 6:18 –Morgan Jr. 28 pass from Lee (Brown kick), 8 plays, 75 yards, 3:04, NU 14-7
IOWA – 0:25 – Noah Fant 4 pass from Nate Stanley (Recinos kick), 11 plays, 75 yards, 5:53, 14-14
Third Quarter (IOWA 42-14)
IOWA – 12:24 – Wadley 1 rush (Recinos kick), 5 plays, 22 yards, 2:21, IOWA 21-14
IOWA – 9:53 – James Butler 12 rush (Recinos kick), 2 plays, 56 yards, 0:34, IOWA 28-14
IOWA – 8:32 – Wadley 29 rush (Recinos kick), 2 plays, 40 yards, 0:36, IOWA 35-14
IOWA – 1:20 – Fant 68 pass from Stanley (Recinos kick), 2 plays, 65 yards, 0:19, Iowa 42-14
Fourth Quarter (IOWA 56-14)
IOWA – 9:24 – Toren Young 3 rush (Recinos kick) 7 plays, 39 yards, 4:33, Iowa 49-14
IOWA – 6:34 – Ivory Kelly-Martin 5 rush (Recinos kick) 3 plays, 65 yards, 1:27, Iowa 56-14
Kickoff: 3:06 p.m. (CT)
Length of Game: 3:05