IOWA CITY, IA - With a possible trip to the Big Ten championship game at stake, Nebraska fell flat.
C.J. Beathard threw three touchdown passes and the Hawkeyes pummeled No. 17 Nebraska 40-10 on Friday, knocking the Cornhuskers out of Big Ten title contention and sending Wisconsin to the championship game.
Tommy Armstrong started for Nebraska (9-3, 6-3 Big Ten) despite a balky hamstring and was just 13 of 35 passing for 125 yards. Backup Ryker Fyfe, who broke his non-throwing wrist last week, didn't take a snap until the game had long been decided.
"Tommy wasn't 100 percent," Huskers coach Mike Riley said. "I don't know if he was the healthiest...I don't know how much it would have made a difference (to play Fyfe)."
Nebraska's defense was just as bad as its offense.
LeShun Daniels Jr. ran for 158 yards and two scores and George Kittle caught two TD passes for the Hawkeyes (8-4, 6-3). They closed the regular season with three straight wins--two of them over ranked opponents--and scored their most points since a win over Purdue on Oct. 15.
Iowa broke open what was expected to be a tight game with a 75-yard TD run by Akrum Wadley and a 77-yard touchdown throw from Beathard to Riley McCarron in the first quarter.
"We played as good as we've played all year," Beathard said. "It just shows the fight and the resilience of this team."
The Badgers are big favorites to beat Minnesota on Saturday anyway. But the Cornhuskers, who entered November as a legitimate playoff contender, hardly looked like one after being outscored 102-13 in their last two road games.
"We gave up big plays. I think we were horrible on third down," Riley said. "I'm really disappointed all the way around in all of us."
Nebraska: With so much to play for, it's hard to believe that the Cornhuskers played so, so poorly. Nebraska gave up three plays of over 50 yards, and Armstrong was all over the place. The Huskers have lost three of their last four to Iowa, a fate sealed when they ran into Iowa kicker Keith Duncan on a field goal try in the fourth quarter--allowing the Hawkeyes to go up 23 a few plays later.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes didn't make it to the Big Ten title game either. But they did go 6-3 in the league, an impressive feat for a team that lost to North Dakota State of the FCS in its final nonconference game. Iowa also made its case for a high-profile bowl, which looked iffy to say the least after losing by 27 points at Penn State to start this month. "You learn a lot about yourself in November," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
B1G TITLE GAME UPDATE
Wisconsin gets the West's spot in Indianapolis next week because it beat Nebraska 23-17 (OT) in late October. In the East, Penn State might have the easiest path. The favored Nittany Lions need to beat Michigan State at home and hope favored Ohio State beats Michigan on Saturday. Ohio State needs a win and a Penn State loss--and even if the Nittany Lions take the East the Buckeyes should be in good shape for the playoff at 11-1. Michigan needs to upset the hated Buckeyes.
Daniels became the first Iowa rusher with over 1,000 yards since 2011. ...Armstrong's 13-yard TD pass to Stanley Morgan snapped a streak of over 136 minutes without allowing a touchdown for Iowa. The Hawkeyes shut out Illinois 28-0 last week. ... Wadley had 105 yards rushing on just 11 carries. ... Armstrong made his 44th career start, setting a team record for a quarterback. Taylor Martinez, his predecessor, made 43 career starts.
Nebraska likely stays in the Top 25. But the Huskers could find themselves drop a few spots after their second straight poor showing on the road. Iowa, which reached as high as 13th earlier this year, could sneak back after beating the Huskers and Michigan in November.
Nebraska will head to a decent bowl game just a year after sneaking into a bid with just five wins.
Iowa will find out which bowl game it will play in next Sunday.
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