The Good and The Bad: Iowa at No. 22 Nebraska

LINCOLN, Neb. — Keep in mind folks, this is all relative. There weren’t too many positives for Iowa today.

THE BAD

Inept passing game
James Vandenberg and Company at least had the excuse of no running game in the loss at Penn State earlier this season. Not so much today. Marcus Coker ran the ball effectively, but it didn’t seem to translate to a smoother passing game. Vandenberg played the worst game since he filled in for an injured Ricky Stanzi in 2009, completing less than 50 percent of his passes. Marvin McNutt was limited to only four catches and 29 receiving yards, his lowest yardage total since last year’s season-opener against Eastern Illinois. Even when the passing game showed signs of life, something went wrong. See C.J. Fiedorowicz’s game-long 24-yard reception, which ended with a fumbe and gave the ball to Nebraska.

Run defense
Tyler Nielsen said it best, “If you want to beat Nebraska at Nebraska, you can’t give them 230 yards rushing or whatever it was.” Iowa surrendered 222 yards on the ground today, to be exact. Rex Burkhead was a machine, carrying the ball a Nebraska-record 38 times for 160 yards. The Cornhuskers improved to 17-0 in the last two seasons when rushing for 200 yards or more.

No spark
Iowa couldn’t come up with a big play in any of the three phases. No big runs or passes on offense. No turnovers forced on defense. And no big return plays. The Hawkeyes couldn’t find a rhythm at all Friday and a dynamic, game-changing play would have gone a long way to reverse their fortune. But such a play was nowhere to be found. It rarely has been this season.

THE GOOD

Marcus Coker’s consistency
Remember when Coker fumbled two of his first four carries of the season? The sophomore back now just keeps trucking along, scoring a touchdown today for the seventh-consecutive game. Friday’s 18 carries for 87 yards upped his season totals to 270 carries for 1,384 yards, the fourth-highest single-season total in Iowa history.

C.J. Fiedorowicz’s progression
Yeah, Fiedorowicz is still listed here despite fumbling today. It was that kind of a game for the Hawkeyes. But the 6-7 sophomore has recorded two or more catches in three straight games. He’s developing into the walking mismatch so many projected him to immediately be for Iowa.

Maligned defense shows up
Nebraska’s rushing yards aside, there is no way you can pin this loss on the Hawkeye defense. Iowa was almost shut out if not for a Coker touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. The Hawkeyes also only managed seven first downs through three quarters, finally breaking through for 11 more in the fourth quarter. But by then Nebraska was already able to rack up 26:59 in time of possession and the Iowa defense was understandably worn out. If anything, Iowa’s defense entered today’s game with a tougher task than did the offense. Nebraska entered with the league’s third-best scoring offense, but was held to 11 points below its season average. Meanwhile, the Cornhusker defense, which was letting opponents reel off 24 points per game, held the Hawkeyes 23 points below their season average.

The numbers don’t lie. The defense did its job today for the most part. The offense didn’t.

— by Jordan Garretson

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