Date: Friday, November 25th
Kickoff: 2:30 p.m.
Venue: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, Iowa
The No. 16 Cornhuskers will go on the road to take on a rival from Iowa City in the last game of the regular season. The annual game will be played on Friday after Thanksgiving, leaving both teams one less day to prepare. Both teams are coming off a two-game win streak, and with the Big Ten West winner still up in the air, Nebraska will need to get a win to keep their Big Ten championship dreams alive.
Iowa recently took down No. 2 Michigan two weeks ago, and may be playing their best football yet. Much of the Hawkeyes’ success has come from their running game, where Iowa averagea over 160 yards on the ground, and have rushed for at least 200 yards in three games, including last week’s 28-0 win at Illinois. Nebraska senior defensive tackle Kevin Maurice and the rest of the Blackshirt defense are well aware of Iowa’s identity.
“They are going to try to run the ball and being able to stop the run and make them throw the ball, it’s going to be real important this week,” said Maurice.
The Hawkeyes’ success on the ground is attributed to their running back duo of junior Akrum Wadley and senior LeShun Daniels Jr. Wadley leads the team with 6.4 yards per carry and is also the touchdown leader with nine - including a 75-yarder. Daniels will get more of the carries, however, and he has a modest eight touchdowns off of 855 yards this season.
Though they won’t rack up the points, averaging just over 25 points a game, Iowa is a very disciplined team that will not make mistakes. When they are not running, senior quarterback C.J. Beathard is completing on 58 percent of his passes. This Iowa team waits for defenses to make mistakes and then pounces on those mistakes. Nebraska head coach Mike Riley is aware of how sound his defense must play this week.
“We’ve got to be able to play good run defense and solid, smart, sound pass defense,” Riley said.
The Blackshirts will need to step up big in this one and play a mistake-free game. Nebraska has improved drastically since last year on defense, and if they can force Iowa to throw the ball, the game is in favor of the third best defense in the Big Ten in interceptions.
Much like last week, Nebraska’s quarterback situation has its struggles. Senior Tommy Armstrong looks to return from a hamstring injury, but won’t be likely be 100 percent. Last week’s starter Ryker Fyfe is also hurt with a broken bone in his left wrist.
“He looks comfortable, I don’t see any noticeable limp or soreness,” said Riley. “I do know he has not gone full speed. We have not run all of our quarterback plays full speed ahead like we normally do. We have simulated it and run the plays.”
If both seniors at some point are too hurt to play, Nebraska will turn to wide receiver Zack Darlington as their emergency quarterback.
The Huskers enter Saturday averaging over 400 yards offensively, but could rely heavily on their run game. Nebraska faces a tough Iowa defense with a few All-Big Ten candidates. This game will be a true Big Ten game, and should be a physical one. Langsdorf mentioned how well this Iowa defense plays.
“They’re playing senior day at home and they’ll be ready to go, but they’re a group that’s not out of position very often,” Langsdorf said. “They run around, they fly to the ball and they’ll hit you. They’ll be very physical, they’ll be sound and the linebackers will be a key in making sure we get to them, both run and being able to protect.”
Iowa’s linebackers are one of the best in the conference. They are able to defend both the run and passing attack, and could be a key factor is stopping this Nebraska offense. Senior wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp mentioned that this linebacker group is their biggest weapon defensively.
“Their linebacking corps is very active,” Westerkamp said. “It always been the toughest linebacking corps we play.”
Nebraska holds the overall series record at 29-14-3 against the Hawkeyes. Since joining the Big Ten, the Huskers have a 3-2 record over their rival, and have not lost in Iowa City since their Big Ten arrival. Iowa got the last laugh last year in Lincoln in Mike Riley’s first game against the Hawkeyes.
What A Win Means For Nebraska:
A win for the Huskers would land them at a 10-2 (7-2) overall to finish out the regular season. A 10 win season would be a drastic improvement from just a year ago when they finished 5-7 in the regular season, eventually finishing 6-7. Lastly, if Nebraska picks up the win, it makes the Wisconsin/Maryland matchup all the more exciting, as the winner of that dictates Nebraska’s future in Indianapolis.
What A Win Means For Iowa:
A Hawkeye win would improve their record to 8-4 and 6-3 in the Big Ten, placing them second in the Big Ten West. More importantly, a win at home would end their season on high note with bragging rights.
Nebraska Players To Watch On Offense:
http://www.scout.com/player/141899-tommy-armstrong?s=204 The senior quarterback will likely return for the final game of the regular season after sitting out last week’s matchup with a hamstring injury. Armstrong has been the outspoken leader for this offense, and has displayed each week that he shows up ready to compete. The Huskers offense could be in jeopardy this week with an unknown starter at quarterback, but if the Texas native is good to go, their offense will add an explosive weapon in both their air and ground attack. Even if he isn’t 100 percent, it will be detrimental to have Nebraska’s leader out there running the offense.
Newby has had an exceptional year in his final season in Lincoln, and this week could be another big one. With a giant question mark at the quarterback position, the California native should, expect to carry the load offensively and have the majority of the carries. Last week, Newby reached the end zone three times in their win against Maryland, adding 98 yards in 22 attempts. With a healthy offensive line, expect that number to increase as the senior I-back will need to play his best game yet to help put up points.
The true freshman has officially earned his way as the number two back behind Newby. Bryant saw a lot of action last week, where he averaged four yards a carry on his 56 yards total. The coaching staff has been raving about his potential since fall camp, and Husker fans have only seen glimpses of what he can do in their games against Fresno State and Minnesota. Now, with a projected run-heavy attack this week for Nebraska, the Missouri native could really break out of his shell and make his name known for the next three years. Riley has praised the maturity of the true freshman and has faith in him when he is on the field. “He makes some plays, and you can put him in and there’s a flow to it where it’s not disrupted because the guy’s a rookie and he doesn’t know what to do or you know, he’s not making any plays, dropping the ball, all that stuff.”
Nebraska Players To Watch On Defense:
http://www.scout.com/player/167118-kevin-maurice?s=204 There is no mystery that Iowa will run on offense. Their identity offensively is to establish the run and wear down opposing defenses. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound senior will need to continue his dominance up front on the defensive line, and will have to make some plays in the backfield. In his 28 tackles on the year, five of them have come from behind the line of scrimmage. Maurice has stepped up and exceled as the leader of this young defensive line, and it will be his duty to make sure the defensive front is ready for an action-packed four-quarter matchup. Look for the Florida native to make a big play early on to set the tone for his teammates up front.
It is no surprise that Josh Banderas could, and most likely will, have yet another big game this week. The senior captain has played up to his potential this year, and then some, leading the team in tackles with 80. Banderas has been averaging double digit tackles in the second half of the season, and is earning his way as an NFL draft pick. The Lincoln native will need to show up big in this one considering the Hawkeyes will try to run the ball down the Blackshirts’ throats. Riley has mentioned how the 6-foot-3, 240-pound middle linebacker is showing great instinct for the game, and how his leadership sets the tone for the rest of the defense. “Josh has just made a ton of plays, he’s really emerged even more this year as a real leader, and then his preparation is just about perfect, and then kind of his mental, physical preparation for the game is big time.”
If you go back and watch the Ohio State matchup, the senior linebacker was in position multiple times to make a big-time stop, but just couldn’t execute the tackle. With his final regular season game approaching, Rose-Ivey could have a big game filling in for an injured linebacker corps, if he can bring down the defenders this time. The Missouri native has been known for his energy and big-play making ability on defense, and with it being a rival game, I expect an explosive play from the linebacker when the team needs it the most to fire up his teammates.
Reasons To Be Concerned:
Chaos has erupted at the quarterback position in Lincoln. Need we say more?
Injury Reports For Nebraska:
QB) Tommy Armstrong Jr. (hamstring) Probable
Armstrong Jr. sat out last week’s game after suffering a hamstring injury the week before against Minnesota.
K) Drew Brown (head) Probable
Drew Brown went out in the opening kickoff last week after suffering a concussion from a big hit on the play. The junior kicker exited the game last week and did not return. He has been undergoing concussion protocol and has even practiced this week. I expect him to fully recover and play this week.
QB) Ryker Fyfe (wrist) Probable
Fyfe hurt his left (non-throwing) wrist early in the second half last week, but played through it and finished the game. After what he thought was just a sprain, it was actually a break in the wrist, and the senior from Grand Island had surgery on Sunday. Fyfe has been limited in practice this week, but is still considered as an option at quarterback on Saturday.
LB) Dedrick Young (elbow) Probable
Young injured his elbow several weeks ago in their matchup against Wisconsin. After missing last week’s game, the sophomore has been rehabbing and should be close to 100 percent this week.
Quote To Note:
“It would be huge to keep this team going, keep winning. Seniors set some goals at the beginning of the season and one of them was to be undefeated at home and the other one was to get 10-plus wins. It’s a huge goal for us, and we definitely want to accomplish that.”—Nebraska wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp
Iowa is playing their best ball right now with a two-game winning streak, one of which coming against No. 2 Michigan. The Huskers are coming off an impressive win last week where their defense nearly shut down Maryland completely. The Huskers’ seniors will all have to step up and set the tone of this game. I think regardless of who starts under center, Nebraska will run the ball for the majority of their offense in this cold matchup. This will be a definite Big Ten game where both teams will run the ball, play physical defense and punch you in the mouth up front. Normally, this mentality would fall in favor of Iowa, but I see Nebraska’s offense getting the edge in this one. A long, overdue big play on special teams from De’Mornay Pierson-El could be the difference maker in this one, much like the last time the Huskers were in Iowa City. It will go down to the wire, but my bet is on Nebraska winning late in the fourth quarter, a quarter they have dominated all season. The Huskers run game and big-play caliber players will aid them in winning by one score in a game that will probably stay under 20 points for both squads.