Burkhead started the week with his right foot in a walking boot and finished it by running for 160 yards and a touchdown on a school-record 38 carries in No. 22 Nebraska's 20-7 victory Friday.
"A little sore -- definitely a little sore," Burkhead said afterward. "It feels good. It was a great win. To see the seniors go out in that fashion, that's the best thing."
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.
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After quarterback Taylor Martinez tweaked his left ankle on a first-quarter run, offensive coordinator Tim Beck told Burkhead that he would be the main man.
"Whatever coach Beck wanted to do, whatever the team needed to do -- pound the rock and throw passes when we needed to," Burkhead said.
The win kept alive Nebraska's hopes of landing a berth in the Capital One Bowl, if two Big Ten teams are invited to BCS games, or the Outback Bowl.
Nebraska (9-3, 5-3) has nine or more wins in each of Pelini's four seasons and for the 38th time in 42 seasons.
"Every now and then you guys might be a little critical of us," safety Austin Cassidy told reporters, "but nine wins, that's a dang-good season no matter how you cut it. It's tough to come in week in and week out and bring it every week. We wanted to win the Big Ten. We want to win every game. When we're old and reflecting on the season, nine wins is something we're going to be proud of."
Iowa (7-5, 4-4) could slip to the Meineke Car Care Bowl or TicketCity Bowl.
Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz said Nebraska never allowed his team to establish an offensive rhythm.
"They played a game you would script out if you were them," he said. "We weren't up to the challenge today."
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.
What happened on the field bore little resemblance to those big Thanksgiving week games Nebraska used to play against Oklahoma and even a few against Colorado.
The Huskers were in full control all afternoon, with Burkhead helping the Huskers to a 16-minute advantage in time of possession.
"I don't think fatigue was a factor," Iowa linebacker James Morris said. "There were times we were able to get off the field. Then there were times when they had prolonged drives. That's football, but that's also a failure on our part."
Burkhead ran on nine of 15 plays of an 80-yard drive that produced the Huskers' first touchdown in the second quarter and put Nebraska up 10-0 at half. 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.
"It was a huge drive for us," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. "Not only did it give us great momentum going into the half, it gave us a two-score lead. That's why I went for it on fourth down. I thought it could be a statement drive for us and real big going into the half. We executed right down the field."
Burkhead 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 went over 100 yards for the seventh time this season, and his 38 carries were one more than Cory Ross had in the 2003 Alamo Bowl against Michigan State.
Nebraska's coaching staff got Burkhead the record on the second-to-last play of the game when the Huskers were in victory formation. Burkhead took a knee for a 3-yard loss.
"I didn't want to do it in that fashion," Burkhead said. "The rest of the line said they wanted me to do it for them, so they could be a part of it. I said, `All right, I'll do it for you guys."
Burkhead and Martinez were among several players aching after the game. Marcel Jones and Jermarcus Hardrick limped off the field, further depleting a banged-up offensive line, and defensive tackle Chase Rome played hurt.
"That was a group of warriors today," Pelini said. "We're a beat-up football team. We have a lot of guys that were hurt, a lot of guys that had to play a ton of snaps because of other guys being hurt. I appreciate what they did today. I think they showed a lot of character and showed the type of pride that makes the group in there a special group."
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.
"He didn't practice very much, and I wasn't sure if he'd play or not," Martinez said of Burkhead. "I'm glad he played."
The Hawkeyes avoided getting shut out for the first time in 11 years when Marcus Coker, who had 87 yards, scored on a 2-yard run with 3:26 left.
Martinez was 12 of 22 for 163 yards, and Kenny Bell caught five balls for a season-high 93 yards.
Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard shut down Marvin McNutt, holding Iowa's record-setting receiver to two catches for 1 yard through three quarters. McNutt finished with four catches for 29 yards.
"I'm a competitive guy, and they told me I was going against him," Dennard said. "I was up for the challenge."