Doug’s Dugout: The first annual Heroes Bowl
This Friday, the day after we chow down that wonderful Thanksgiving dinner, the annual “Heroes Game” between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Nebraska Cornhuskers will be played at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.
On paper, 7-4 Iowa appears a cakewalk favorite to drub the 4-7 Huskers. But, as we well know, football games are not played on paper.
Iowa was 6-1 on Oct. 20 after a 23-0 win over Maryland. The Hawkeyes were still being mentioned in conference title conversations and as an outsider looking in at the college football playoffs with just the one loss to Wisconsin.
Then the wheels fell off. Iowa lost at Penn State 30-24, at Purdue 38-36, and at home against Northwestern 14-10 to complete a three-game losing streak.
The Hawks recovered nicely with a 63-0 thrashing of Illinois in Champaign last weekend, but it is difficult to know where they are psychologically right now.
Nebraska has taken a much different approach to this game against our rivals to the east. After starting the much ballyhooed season with a staggering six-game losing streak, NU head coach Scott Frost has finally built the foundation he has been talking about since last December.
With wins over Minnesota, Bethune-Cookman, Illinois, and Michigan State, the Huskers are playing like the team everyone expected during a lightning storm in Lincoln’s Memorial Stadium last Labor Day weekend.
So here we are. Two teams on two completely different tracks heading into the end of the season.
Iowa knows it has a bowl game locked up even though the stature of that game continues to drop like a rock with every new defeat. Nebraska knows it’s locked out of a bowl game this season with their seven regular season losses.
Who knows? A win over Colorado or Troy, holding on for the win at Northwestern, and the Huskers are dead even with Iowa entering the late November match-up. But, ’when ifs and buts are candy and nuts …”
Nebraska looked, well, awesome in the 9-6 win over Michigan State this past weekend. In horrible conditions, the Huskers offense sputtered and coughed but had just enough octane to stay in the game until the fourth quarter when a freshman kicker came along (from Alabama no less) and booted three field goals straight and true to give Nebraska the lead.
Then the defense, that much maligned defense, took over. In the swirling snow, howling winds, and frigid temps, the Blackshirts finally played like their namesakes. One could hear that foundation settling into place as the seconds ticked off the clock, sending the Nebraska fans into a frenzy that few could have anticipated only a few short weeks ago.
So, back to this Friday. This is Nebraska’s bowl game. A win would push Nebraska to 5-7 and a 5-1 finish to a campaign that seemed so dark and bleak after the loss to Northwestern.
It would help in recruiting. It would give the pollsters something to talk about entering the 2019 season. I propose the bowl season begins on Friday, Nov. 23 with the First Annual Heroes Bowl!
Who’s with me? GO BIG RED!!!
Doug Phillips is a freelance writer for The Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at SCHsports@lee.net