Iowa vs. Nebraska, 11.26

Nebraska quarterback Logan Smothers (8) warms up in front of injured Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez (left) before taking on Friday at Memorial Stadium.

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Early in the season, Nebraska had a habit of getting away from its run game if it fell behind,

On Friday, production in the ground game dried up in the second half against Iowa even though the Huskers played most of it from ahead.

After grinding out 111 yards on 27 first-half carries, NU managed just 35 yards on 17 second-half attempts.

“Really in the second half, they were pretty much taking their backers out of the box to get us out of our option game,” head coach Scott Frost said. “When that happens, you need to be able to just run the ball between the tackles, and we did OK at times.”

On NU’s final five offensive possessions — three with the lead, one tied and one trailing by seven — the home team managed just a net of 8 yards on 10 carries.

Freshman Jaquez Yant got the start after not appearing last week against Wisconsin. Interim running backs coach Ron Brown said on the radio this week that Yant had to “pay rent” for a disciplinary issue, but that he’d be back in the mix against the Hawkeyes.

Without top back Rahmir Johnson for the second straight week, NU’s running backs totaled 65 yards on 17 carries, none longer than 10 yards.

“It’s got to be better,” Frost said. “It’s not just one guy. It’s blocking better downfield. It’s the holes being a little bigger and getting a few more tough yards or making somebody miss. We run it well at times and it’s just not consistent enough to count on.”

Yant, Belt and Marvin Scott all got carries while sophomore Markese Stepp was in uniform, but did not play. 

Players salute Martinez: Whether junior quarterback Adrian Martinez ever dons a Nebraska uniform remains to be seen.

His teammates weren’t shy about praising him on Friday regardless of what happens next. The three-time captain, of course, did not play against Iowa after having surgery Wednesday on his right shoulder.

“My heart breaks for the kid,” senior defensive lineman Ben Stille said. “He put his entire life, his entire body, everything he had into this program. Him not being able to finish this season really hurts. He’s obviously our leader. I’m older than him significantly, I’m two or three years older than him, but I look up to him leadershipwise no matter what and the way he carries himself. He’s a great human being.”

Now, NU waits to see what he decides.

“That’s my brother,” sophomore running back/receiver Brody Belt said. “Whatever he decides, I’m with him.”

Miscommunication in critical moment: The head coach estimated that Nebraska has thousands of practice repetitions of the play that ended up being its last offensive snap of the season under its belt. 

Senior wide receiver Levi Falck had an option to run either to the post or break off his route, depending on coverage. He ran the route on second-and-10 with just less than a minute remaining in the game, 28 yards from potentially tying Friday’s game against Iowa.

At the critical moment, he broke off, looking for daylight. Freshman quarterback Logan Smothers threw the ball to the post. With nobody there, Iowa’s Jermari Harris easily intercepted it and ended NU’s hopes of a victory.

“Just had a miscommunication there,” Smothers said. “Can’t have that happen.”

Said Frost, “That’s a play we run all the time. The receiver has the option of running the post or shutting it down, and I bet we have 3,000 reps of that. Made the wrong throw at the wrong time.”

Seniors say thank you: For many players, Friday was their last at Nebraska. NU’s eight seniors plus tight end Austin Allen and junior defensive back Cam Taylor-Britt are definitely leaving, and more will likely decide to in the coming days and weeks.

“It didn’t really hit me until pregame,” Allen said of his final game at NU. “This week, practice seemed pretty normal, but that last one in the stadium, the fans showed up, they were loud and proud. Them showing up every weekend, Black Friday weekend, it means a lot to me, as a guy in the state, the support that they showed for a 3-8, 3-9 football team now, was tremendous and I can’t thank the fans enough for that.”

Taylor-Britt said he never considered transferring out of Lincoln even though the team struggled throughout his tenure and he could have found plenty of opportunity elsewhere.

“It’s all I’ve known, man, four years,” Taylor-Britt said. “… I sat my butt here and dealt with the heartache and the pain and just tried to change everything around. You can only do so much and I feel like I’ve done my best here in my time.”

OL rotations: Early in the game, junior offensive lineman Broc Bando rotated at right tackle with starter Bryce Benhart, just as they did last weekend at Wisconsin. 

In the third quarter, on Logan Smothers' second touchdown run, right guard Matt Sichterman appeared to suffer an injury and did not return to the game. 

From there, Bando and redshirt freshman Ethan Piper, who began the year as Nebraska's starting left guard, rotated in on the right side. Sometimes, they were in and out so frequently that there were multiple changes on the same drive. 

Allen sets another record: Allen, the captain from Aurora, broke the school's single-season receiving yardage record for a tight end. 

He had just two catches, but they went for 28 and 27 yards. 

Allen finished the season with 602 yards on 38 catches, breaking Junior Miller's 1978 record of 560. Allen already had the single-season receptions record and set the single-game yardage record last week with 143 against Wisconsin. Allen racked up 12 catches of 20-plus yards on the season. 

Iowa switches QBs: After sophomore Alex Padilla completed 6-of-14 passes for 76 yards and missed on some throws, including a fourth-down pass into the end zone in the first quarter, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz changed quarterbacks for the second half.

Spencer Petras, who began the season as Iowa's starting QB, took over and guided Iowa to a comeback victory. The junior was 7-for-13 for 102 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown Friday.

“I do not know if that was the factor that he came in and played well and they won so maybe it was, but the blocked punt was the game," Frost said.

Petras did a good job keeping Iowa drives alive. He was 3-for-5 on third-down plays.

 

This article originally ran on journalstar.com.

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