Burkhead pounded away at Iowa's defense 4 or 5 yards at a time and looked like his old self after being held to a season-low 36 yards in last week's loss at Michigan.
He had eight carries for 39 yards on a 10-play drive that ended with his 2-yard run and a 20-0 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Burkhead ran on nine of 15 plays of an 80-yard drive that produced the Huskers' first touchdown. His 2-yard run around right end converted a fourth-and-1 inside the Iowa 30, and six plays later Kyler Reed scored his first touchdown of the season on a 6-yard pass from Taylor Martinez.
Nebraska's coaching staff got Burkhead a record 38th carry on the second-to-last play of the game when the Huskers (9-3, 5-3) were in victory formation. Burkhead took a knee for a 3-yard loss.
Burkhead came out of the 45-17 loss at Michigan banged up, and he was limited in practice all week.
He started and finished strong, breaking a 14-yard run on the Huskers' first play from scrimmage and then going for 8 and 6 yards. Ameer Abdullah spelled him, but never for more than two consecutive plays.
Nebraska is hoping to land a berth in the Capital One Bowl, if two Big Ten teams are invited to BCS games, or the Outback Bowl. Iowa (7-5, 4-4) could slip to the Meineke Car Care Bowl or TicketCity Bowl.
The Hawkeyes avoided getting shut out for the first time in 11 years when Marcus Coker scored on a 2-yard run with 3:26 left.
With Nebraska having joined the Big Ten this year, Friday's game was long touted as the start of a natural rivalry. Iowa is Nebraska's closest Big Ten opponent, and the farm states split by the Missouri River share a passion for football.
The universities further billed it as the inaugural ''Heroes Game'' and honored ''citizen heroes'' from each state at halftime.
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The Huskers and Hawkeyes were meeting for the first time since 2000, and Nebraska leads the series 27-12-3.
Martinez was 12 of 22 for 163 yards, and Kenny Bell caught five balls for a season-high 93 yards.
Coker, averaging 118 yards a game, ran 18 times for 87 yards.