Iowa vs. Nebraska: 10 Things We Learned in the Cornhuskers' Loss to Iowa
The Nebraska Cornhuskers (8-4) were blown out at home, 38-17, courtesy of the Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4).
Iowa tailback Mark Weisman led the Hawkeyes in rushing with 72 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. Complementary back Jordan Canzeri also chipped in with six carries for 59 yards.
Due to a makeshift offensive line, the Cornhuskers weren't able to function offensively at a very high level. Ron Kellogg III was pressured constantly, and thus he was plagued by two interceptions. A nicked up Ameer Abdullah gave a valiant effort, but a plethora of injuries neutralized his overall effectiveness.
It was the first time Iowa has beaten Nebraska in Lincoln since 1943. It was also the first time Iowa has beaten Nebraska since 1981.
Here are 10 things we learned in the Hawkeyes' victory over the Cornhuskers.
Ameer Abdullah Is a Warrior
The diminutive back out of Homewood, Ala., showed tremendous heart and toughness Friday.
During Friday's contest, he left the game at certain points with ankle, shoulder and arm injuries. Nebraska was down by multiple touchdowns after Abdullah had suffered these physical ailments.
Abdullah could have easily chosen to sit on the sidelines and not go back in the game. However, he reentered the contest and played exceptionally well in the second half.
He showed why he'll be a very good player on the next level.
Nebraska Is in a Precarious Situation
What does the university do at this point?
Pelini has done a decent job from a record standpoint, going 57-24 up to this point. However, his tenure at Nebraska has not been without some controversy.
Former Nebraska great Tommie Frazier has been critical of Pelini and his coaching ability. Pelini simply responded he didn't care whether or not Frazier is around and said that "we don't need him."
Pelini also had a profanity-laced rant about the Nebraska fanbase earlier this season.
It doesn't help matters much when the head coach blasts both a former All-American and the wonderful, supportive fanbase. It also doesn't help Pelini's case when it comes to his behavior on the sidelines.
The University of Nebraska has a very interesting dilemma when it comes to its head football coach. Pelini is under contract until 2018. He could be owed $7.65 million in the event he is fired.
Nebraska would not only have to pay Pelini, but it'd also have to shell out cash for a completely brand new staff.
At what point does the product (or lack thereof) on the football field outweigh the possible hit from a financial standpoint?
The Offensive Line Made It Impossible for Ron Kellogg III
The lack of playable bodies and continuity on the offensive line truly made it difficult for the offense.
A constant reshuffling of bodies allowed for little success rushing the football. On the day, Nebraska ran for 89 yards on 37 carries. It comes out to a 2.4 yards-per-carry clip.
Ron Kellogg III was pressured constantly throughout the day. Iowa's defense virtually teed off on the beleaguered quarterback. He had no time to throw the ball and thus was not very effective. He finished 19-of-37 for 199 yards and two interceptions.
You can't really blame Nebraska for the injuries. The fact is, the lack of health on the offensive line made it very difficult to win the game against a solid defense.
Bo Pelini Should Be Embarrassed
Bo Pelini's antics on the sidelines were reminiscent of a petulant child pouting in the corner after being told "no."
It was downright embarrassing. He did not represent the proud University of Nebraska or the football program in a positive manner. Aside from the visual look of it, his theatrics cost his team a touchdown.
His arguing of a questionable call led to a unsportsmanlike penalty. Iowa was afforded good field position and thus turned it into an eventual touchdown.
At what point will the over-the-top, ridiculous behavior be addressed?
The Coaching Strategy Put the Team in a Hole
The situation on the offensive line did shrink what Nebraska could do offensively. However, there was strangely conservative play-calling at points by offensive coordinator Tim Beck.
Specifically in the first half, there wasn't much of an effort to get the ball in Abdullah's hands. He's easily Nebraska's most talented and effective offensive playmaker. Even with issues up front, Abdullah seemingly ran the ball up the middle on every play. He had only 16 yards rushing in the first half.
Nebraska did have success on quick throws and an upping of the tempo. However, the team went away from that for some inexplicable reason. Iowa was getting constant pressure, and general convention suggests that a game plan of quick throws and screens would lessen the said pressure.
It didn't happen enough for Nebraska.
The fake punt call was also a marvelous blunder by the staff. It forced the Cornhuskers defense into a very tough position from a field-position standpoint.
Turnovers Killed Nebraska
Kellogg's two interceptions in the first quarter ruined any momentum, and it zapped the signal-caller of any confidence. He played very timidly the rest of the first half due to the interceptions. One of those interceptions led to an Iowa touchdown. An Abdullah fumble was also converted into points by the Hawkeyes.
The special teams play also left a lot to be desired in terms of field position. Returner Jordan Westerkamp failed to signal for a fair catch, and the ball ultimately was downed inside of the Nebraska 1-yard line.
On the next punt, Westerkamp inexplicably called for a fair catch inside of Nebraska's 5-yard line.
The ill-advised fake punt utterly perplexing. There's no reason to call for a fake punt inside of your own territory with a deficit of only seven points. The punt unsurprisingly led to an Iowa touchdown throw from Jake Rudock to Kevonte Martin-Manley.
Turnovers in its own territory didn't help out Nebraska's defense at all. The short fields also made it understandably easy for Iowa's offense.
No Tommy Armstrong = No Ground Game
Without mobile quarterback Tommy Armstrong, the offense became extremely vanilla and predictable.
The threat of the option was rendered virtually nonexistent. Kellogg III isn't what anyone would call a threat to move the football with his legs.
As a result, Iowa pinned its proverbial ears back and attacked the Nebraska signal-caller. One can compensate for poor/injured offensive line play with running ability from the quarterback position.
Nebraska just didn't have that Friday.
Give Nebraska Credit
The team faced an inordinate amount of adversity in this ballgame. It'd be easy to understand why a team could conceivably fold in a game like this. Injuries notwithstanding, the squad was victimized by poor field position and questionable play-calling.
Give the team credit for not giving up. The fanbase should be proud of the short-handed team for fighting down to the final whistle. Abdullah was emblematic of that effort.
Get Back to the Roots
From a traditional standpoint, a Nebraska team prides itself on being a tough, disciplined, defensive-minded group.
None of the aforementioned qualities are applicable to the current program. Why is that? It ultimately starts with the coaching staff.
Should Pelini and his staff stay on, the team has got to get considerably tougher and more physical. Also, the defensive efforts have got to improve. How that happens remains to be seen. It might start with the type of kids Pelini recruits.
Regardless, Pelini has got to figure out a way to improve his team.
Depth Needs to Improve on Both Lines
Iowa had its way with Nebraska on both sides of the ball. It all starts up front, where Nebraska was disadvantaged.
Randy Gregory, Vincent Valentine and Avery Moss comprise a very promising trio for the future on the defensive line. Both Gregory and Valentine flashed their immense ability Friday. Gregory leads the Big Ten in sacks, while Valentine is starting to develop into a very good young player. Besides those three, there isn't much left in the cupboard.
Nebraska was gashed repeatedly on runs to the perimeter. Iowa's tackles did a great job at setting the edge and springing its tailbacks for yardage.
One can't really blame Nebraska for its offensive line. Three of the five projected starters were suffering from knee injuries. A reshuffling of the group existed, and as a result, there wasn't much cohesion.
In order to combat injuries, there needs to be viable depth. It doesn't appear as if Nebraska has a ton of playable bodies on the offensive line.