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Last-second field goal dooms Huskers

November 24, 2018

IOWA CITY — Nebraska capped off its 2018 season with a comeback that fell just short, losing 31-28 on a field goal made as time expired.

Nebraska trailed 28-13 heading into the fourth quarter, but a touchdown pass from Adrian Martinez to Maurice Washington brought Nebraska within a score at 28-20. Martinez threw what looked to be a costly interception, but Iowa missed a 37-yard field goal to give Nebraska the ball back with 7:54 left and another shot to tie.

Martinez led Nebraska down the field in the closing minutes and ran in a score from three yards to pull within 28-26. On a broken play, Martinez found Kade Warner in the back of the end zone on a two-point conversion to tie it at 28 with 3:22 left in the game.

Iowa took back over as it began to rain in Iowa City. They handed it off, time and time again, to Mekhi Sargent, who ran for 173 yards on the day. The Hawkeyes got down to the Nebraska 37-yard line with 42 seconds left. On fourth-and-8, Iowa QB Nate Stanley found tight end TJ Hockenson for 10 yards to keep the Hawkeyes on the field.

Two plays later, they ran out kicker Miguel Recinos, who hit a 41-yarder to win.

Nebraska finishes the season 4-8 for the second straight year, and won’t go to a bowl game for the second straight season for the first time since Bob Devaney’s hiring in 1962.

Martinez finished 26 for 38 for 260 yards and two touchdowns. Washington caught seven passes for 102 yards. Stanley Morgan capped of his career with seven catches for 81 yards, and finished with 1,001 receiving yards for the season, breaking the school record he set last year.

Iowa dominated up front, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. Stanley completed 16 of his 27 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns, and one clutch first down that gave Iowa the chance to win.

Iowa held onto the ball for 20:49 in the first half and went into halftime up 21-13. The Hawkeyes did just about whatever it wanted in the first, running for 143 yards on 25 carries in the first 30 minutes. Nebraska, meanwhile, hardly had the ball enough to make an impact. Martinez led Nebraska on a touchdown on NU’s first drive, but the Huskers’ offensive line struggled to protect the true freshman for most of the game. Iowa sacked Martinez three times, and the Huskers struggled to find a rhythm on offense.

In the final three minutes of the half, Nebraska couldn’t slow Iowa’s ground game. The Hawkeyes put together a 15-play, 85-yard drive to push the lead to 21-10.

With 45 seconds left, Nebraska drove into field-goal range. Barret Pickering missed a 51-yarder, but Iowa was called for offsides. He had no issue with a 46-yarder as time expired, and Nebraska was down just one score at the half.

Nebraska got the ball first in the second half and couldn’t keep it long. The Huskers went three-and-out thanks to Iowa’s third sack on the day from Anthony Nelson.

Iowa went back to business on their first possession of the second half, throwing together an eight-play, 56-yard drive to take a 28-13 lead with 9:13 left in the third quarter.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz chose to fake a field goal on fourth down, but the Hawkeyes failed. Nebraska took over but was stopped on third-and-3. But on the 9-yard line, Frost faked the punt on fourth down, and Luke Gifford gained just enough to save the drive. Martinez converted a fourth-and-1 near midfield. On fourth-and-2, Morgan caught a swing pass to convert another fourth down. One play later, Martinez hit Washington on a wheel route for 28 yards and a score, and Nebraska was within one score again, at 28-20 with 13:57 left in the fourth quarter.

Nebraska’s defense forced a three-and-out on Iowa’s next possession and took back over with 12:30 to play. Martinez dove forward for the fourth fourth-down conversion and Nebraska looked like it was within striking distance. But on the next play, Martinez read the Iowa defense wrong and was picked.

But Iowa missed a field goal on that extra possession, and life was injected back into the Huskers.

Martinez led NU back into the red zone. On first-and-goal from the 3, Martinez scored on a keeper, slamming into an Iowa linebacker and pulling NU to 28-26. Frost elected to go for a two-point conversion. On a broken play, Martinez found Kade Warner in the back of the end zone and tied the game at 28-28 with 3:22 left.

Iowa then won it with a field goal.

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