Nebraska won't be playing for a Big Ten championship after Iowa ran up the score in the annual Heroes Game.
The Hawkeyes dominated the Huskers by a 40-10 score Friday in Iowa City, eliminating their border rivals from the Big Ten West Division championship race. Iowa's win gave the division crown to Wisconsin, which will head to the conference championship game in Indianapolis regardless of the outcome of the battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe on Saturday in Madison.
Despite struggling to produce any consistent offensive success early, the Hawkeyes had some home runs in them, scoring two first-quarter touchdowns on plays of more than 70 yards. Akrum Wadley rushed 75 yards for a score, and C.J. Beathard hit Riley McCarron on a crossing rout that ended with him scampering to the end zone on a 77-yard pass play.
Nebraska added a second-quarter field goal before LeShun Daniels hit the big-play jackpot, rushing 56 yards to set up his four-yard touchdown rush to make it a 20-3 game.
Desmond King's 44-yard punt return in the third quarter set up another short Iowa touchdown, a pass from Beathard to George Kittle. Nebraska hung around with a fourth-and-10 touchdown pass from Tommy Armstrong to Stanley Morgan Jr.
But the Hawkeyes broke things open in the fourth quarter, scoring two more touchdowns: one a six-yard pass from Beathard to Kittle and the other a one-yard Daniels scoring run.
Iowa dominated Nebraska in this one on more than just the scoreboard, holding a 408-217 edge in total yardage that included 264 yards on the ground. The Huskers actually had more first downs and there were zero turnovers in the game, but the Hawkeyes dwarfed them in yards per play, averaging 9.6 yards per pass compared to 3.4 and 5.6 yards per rush compared to 2.9.
Beathard was 10-for-15 for 144 yards and three touchdowns. Daniels and Wadley both went over 100 yards rushing on the day, Daniels gaining 158 and scoring two touchdowns and Wadley gaining 105 with one touchdown.
The win ended Iowa's regular season at 8-4 overall and 6-3 in conference play, another upsetting finish to follow one of Kirk Ferentz's biggest seasons. But certainly things could've been much worse. The Hawkeyes perhaps played their best down the stretch, winning their final three games and dominating on defense in all three, holding Michigan, Illinois and Nebraska to a combined 23 points in 12 quarters.
Nebraska's regular season ended at 9-3 overall and 6-3 in the Big Ten. The Huskers will almost surely drop in next week's College Football Playoff rankings, but more to the point they will not compete for a Big Ten title or a spot in the Playoff. Still, a nine-win campaign to follow up the 6-7 finish in Mike Riley's first season is one great step in the right direction.