Iowa has owned the series against Nebraska, winning the past seven contests against the Cornhuskers. It looked like the Hawkeyes’ dominance over Nebraska was set to come to a close last year in Lincoln, Neb., but a fourth-quarter Iowa rally was jumpstarted by Henry Marchese’s blocked punt that Kyler Fisher returned 14 yards for a touchdown.
That cut Iowa’s deficit from 21-9 to 21-16. The Hawkeyes followed that special teams game-changer by forcing Huskers backup quarterback Logan Smothers into an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone for a safety. Iowa’s Caleb Shudak added a 44-yard field goal on the ensuing possession and suddenly the game was tied.
Then, Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras capped off a six-play, 76-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown plunge to give the Hawkeyes their first lead with 2:58 remaining. Hawkeyes cornerback Jermari Harris sealed the victory, intercepting Smothers to end any final threat from the Huskers.
In the process, Iowa registered its fifth consecutive victory in Lincoln, captured the Big Ten West crown and notched a 10-win season. 247Sports’ Nick Kosko isn’t buying into any of the recent series history in his game-by-game predictions for Nebraska’s 2022 season, though.
Kosko likes Nebraska to upset Iowa, 24-21, to end the 2022 regular season.
Yes, we’re picking an upset here. Nebraska puts a stamp on its bowl game date, whenever and wherever it might be. The upset over the Hawkeyes on the road will be the defining game of the 2022 season for Scott Frost. There’s gotta be one in there somewhere, and why not the final regular season game of the upcoming fall? Let’s do it. A late field goal puts Nebraska up by 10 (24-14) and the defense holds on as Iowa fails a late comeback. With the 7-5 record, Frost ensures a 2023 campaign and has a chance to win an eighth game in the postseason. – Kosko, 247Sports.
Obviously, this would be a reversal of what fans have seen in recent years. There’s a good chance that it has serious division implications for the Hawkeyes, too. The West feels like it’s wide open, and Iowa just might be hosting Nebraska for a return trip to Indianapolis in the 2022 edition to determine the fate of the Heroes Trophy.
If that’s the circumstances going in for Iowa’s Senior Day game, then the Huskers will have earned a difficult to come by victory, and it would further signal that Nebraska has made progress as a football program in 2022.
While Iowa is an interesting team heading into next season given the disparity between the team’s offensive and defensive production in 2021, Nebraska might have been the most intriguing, hardest to figure out team in all of the Big Ten last season. The Huskers finished 3-9, which is by definition bad. Still, Nebraska lost eight one-score games, which could indicate that the Huskers are ripe for a quick turnaround.
Time will tell on that front. One thing is for certain. Scott Frost needs 2022 to show tangible results if he’s to remain the Huskers’ head football coach. Frost brought in offensive coordinator Mark Whipple from Pittsburgh to help try and rejuvenate Nebraska’s offense. Last season’s backup quarterback in Smothers returns for Nebraska, but longtime starter Adrian Martinez is off to Kansas State.
Nebraska went ahead and brought former Texas quarterback Casey Thompson in to be the likely starter, and the Huskers added Florida State transfer signal-caller Chubba Purdy as well. The wide receiving corps features a series of transfers as well with Trey Palmer arriving from LSU, Marcus Washington from Texas and Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda from New Mexico State.
Palmer had 30 grabs for 344 yards and three scores in 2021, Washington registered 18 receptions for 277 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and Garcia-Castaneda hauled in 37 passes for 578 yards and four scores. Add that in with Omar Manning’s returning 26 grabs for 380 yards and two touchdowns.
In the backfield, Nebraska will be looking for Rahmir Johnson, Gabe Ervin Jr. and Jaquez Yant to combine for the Huskers’ rushing attack. Last season, Johnson carried 112 times for 495 yards and four scores, Ervin Jr. rushed 37 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns and Yant tallied 47 totes for 294 yards and one trip to the end zone.
Defensively, Nebraska added two-time All-Big 12 second-team selection Ochaun Mathis at defensive end. Mathis has 135 tackles, 30.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks over the course of his college career. He’ll team with Garrett Nelson, Ty Robinson and Alabama transfer Stephon Wynn Jr. At the second level, Nebraska linebackers Luke Reimer and Nick Henrich combined for 189 tackles last season.
The Huskers’ defensive backfield has its fair share of transfer additions as well, featuring Tommi Hill from Arizona State, DeShon Singleton from Hutchinson Community College and Omar Brown from Northern Iowa. That trio will join safety Myles Farmer and cornerback Quinton Newsome.
For a head coach in Frost that is frankly desperate for success heading into 2022, it makes sense to replenish the roster with a series of transfer portal additions and see if it works. While Iowa hopes to be fighting for the Big Ten West in the season finale, Frost just might be coaching for his job.
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