Nebraska finished the game with 362 yards of offense, but just seven points on the scoreboard. The Huskers turned the ball over five times in the red zone. "It was like a force field across the goal line that we couldn't cross," said wide receiver Brandon Kinnie.
Nebraska received the ball to start the game, but running back Roy Helu Jr. fumbled on the first play from scrimmage, and the Cyclones' Kennard Banks recovered. After their offense stalled, Iowa State kicker Grant Mahoney hit a career long 52-yard field goal to put the Cyclones on top first.
Late in the first quarter, the Huskers scored their lone points of the game when freshman Dontrayevous Robinson scored on a 3-yard touchdown run, putting Nebraska ahead 7-3. Robinson finished the game as Nebraska's leading rusher with 84 yards on 15 carries.
With Nebraska driving early in the 2nd quarter, quarterback Zac Lee had his pass intercepted at the one-yard line. The pass was deflected by an Iowa State linebacker, hit off tight end Mike McNeill's hands, then McNeill was hit and the ball deflected off Roy Helu's hands before finally being intercepted by Iowa State's David Sims.
"I ran the route and I think the middle linebacker tipped it and I just reached back to try and grab it," said Nebraska TE Mike McNeill. "I almost had it and I got hit. They ended up with the ball."
Iowa State took advantage of the turnover. After it appeared the Cyclone drive had stalled at their own 33 yard line, Coach Paul Rhoads elected to run a fake punt, as punter Mike Brandtner ran the ball for 20 yards to the NU 47 yard line.
"We've gone into every game with a fake punt, everybody does," said Iowa State Coach Paul Rhoads. "It was time for momentum, for an opportunity of momentum, to possibly swing."
The very next play following the fake punt, Iowa State jumped into the lead. Freshman quarterback Jerome Tiller found Jake Williams in the end zone for a 47 yard touchdown. The Cyclones extra point attempt was blocked by Ndamukong Suh. Tiller finished the game 9-19 for 102 yards in his first career start.
Nebraska's bad luck on offense continued. On their longest play of the game, Zac Lee found wide receiver Niles Paul for a 72-yard completion. But as Paul did a balancing-act as he attempted to stay inbounds, he lost control of the football and fumbled on the goal line, Iowa State recovering.
Nebraska had yet another offensive drive stall early in the 3rd quarter. Helu rushed up the middle for 14 yards, but it was it ISU's Sims again, as he forced Helu to cough up the football near the goal line, and ISU jumped on the football again.
"We executed a lot of plays pretty well and we coughed the ball up," said McNeill. "We can't do that."
After Nebraska punted to start out the 4th quarter, Iowa State killed 7:12 of game clock time, without even making it past midfield. With just over four minutes to go in the game, Lee completed to passes to get the Huskers to their own 42 yard line, but Lee would throw an interception just two plays later.
The defense stepped up with another three and out giving Nebraska one final chance on offense, but after throwing three incompletions, Lee threw his third interception of the game, ending any hope of a Husker comeback.
"Fourth and ten got to give a guy a chance to make a play," said Lee. "It's one of those things where I got hit right as I threw it. I was trying to give Wes (Cammack) a chance; he was running a crossing route. Obviously, the ball game up a little shyer than I would've liked."
With much speculation as to who would start at quarterback for Nebraska, Lee remained the guy. On the day he finished 20-37 for 248 yards, but threw zero touchdowns and three interceptions. After starting the game completing 13 of his first 16 passes, Lee finished the game 7-21. Still, Coach Pelini remains confident in his quarterback.
"I thought he played well. He was 20-37. I don't think we played well around Zac. I think Zac was the least of our problems today." Nebraska's eight turnovers tied a school record set just two other times. The Huskers fumbled the ball seven times, which is the most since 2005.
"It's just not taking care of the football," said Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson. "It's sloppy ball handling, period." The "Blackshirt" defense allowed 239 total yards, marking the 6th consecutive game that Nebraska has held their opponent to fewer than 280 yards. However, despite another impressive defensive effort, the Huskers' struggling offense could not come through.
"They just need to work out some kinks and what not," said Suh. "Like I said last week, that's where we have to step up on the defensive side and the special teams side and pick that group (the offense) up."
Suh finished the game with eight total tackles, including a sack. The senior defensive tackle now has one tackle for a loss in 17 of Nebraska's last 18 games.
With the loss, Nebraska falls to 4-3 and 1-2 in Big 12 conference games. After a pair of home losses, Nebraska heads to Waco, Texas to take on the Baylor Bears. When asked what's next for the team, Coach Pelini simply said, "Back to work."