Iowa vs. Nebraska score, takeaways: No. 16 Hawkeyes keep Big Ten West title hopes alive with late rally

No. 16 Iowa rallied to defeat Nebraska 28-21 Friday in an improbable comeback that leaves the Hawkeyes alive in the Big Ten West Division title race. It was a story that's grown all too familiar for Nebraska fans this season, as the Cornhuskers made critical errors to cost themselves a chance to finish the season with a win.

Nebraska was without starting quarterback Adrian Martinez and gave redshirt freshman Logan Smothers the first start of his career. Smothers played well in his debut, and was a big reason why the Cornhuskers were able to build a 21-6 lead with less than six minutes remaining in the third quarter. 

Then ... things fell apart.

Iowa would cut the lead to 21-9 with a field goal late in the third, but the next possession is when things turned for good. The Hawkeyes blocked a Nebraska punt in the first minute of the fourth quarter and returned it for a touchdown to cut the lead to 21-16. A few minutes later, Nebraska would fumble at midfield, but its defense held and forced an Iowa punt -- a punt that would bury the Cornhuskers offense inside its own 5-yard line. That led to Smothers taking a safety when he attempted to throw the ball away while in the grasp of Iowa's Lukas Van Ness. 

Iowa would get a field goal to tie the game on its next possession, then went 76 yards in six plays following Nebraska's next drive to take a 28-21 lead -- lead it would never relinquish. The win means the Hawkeyes finish the regular season with a 10-2 record, while Nebraska finishes 3-9. Eight of Nebraska's nine losses this season were one-score losses.

1. Iowa fans are now huge Minnesota fans

The Hawkeyes and Gophers have their own rivalry, playing for the Floyd of Rosedale every season, but they'll be putting the hate aside on Saturday. Well, at least Iowa fans will. Iowa eliminated Minnesota from contention in the Big Ten West with this win, but the Hawkeyes still need Minnesota to beat Wisconsin. Because of Wisconsin's 27-7 win over the Hawkeyes earlier this season, the Badgers hold the tie-breaker. That means if Wisconsin wins tomorrow, both teams finish 7-2 in the Big Ten but Wisconsin will head to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship. So, put on your maroon and gold, Iowa fans. You're Minnesota fans now.

2. Kirk Ferentz wins 10 games for seventh time

The last time the Hawkeyes won 10 games was two seasons ago in 2019, but that was a nine-win regular season that saw the Hawkeyes pick up their 10th win in the Holiday Bowl against USC. The Hawkeyes finished second in the West Division. That wasn't the case in 2015 when Iowa went 12-0 in the regular season but lost both the Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl to finish 12-2.

3. Different sort of heartbreaking loss for Nebraska

Sure, it was a one-score loss, giving them eight of those on the season, but it came in a different manner. There were turnovers and terrible mistakes on special teams that have haunted the team all season long, but the difference was Nebraska blew such a large lead. It was ahead 14-6 at halftime, and the Cornhuskers had gone 3-1 this season when leading at halftime. Before this loss, the largest lead the Huskers held in any of their losses was seven points, and it happened three times. Two of those (Illinois and Purdue) were first-half leads. The only time Nebraska led by a touchdown in the second half of a game was when it led Michigan State 20-13 in the fourth quarter before falling in overtime 23-20.

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NEB -1.5, o41
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NEB -1.5, O/U 41

Season Leaders

passing
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S. Petras1880 YD, 10 TDS, 9 INTS
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S. Petras1880 YD, 10 TDS, 9 INTS
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A. Martinez2863 YD, 14 TDS, 10 INTS
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A. Martinez2863 YD, 14 TDS, 10 INTS
rushing
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T. Goodson256 ATT, 1151 YD, 6 TDS
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T. Goodson256 ATT, 1151 YD, 6 TDS
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A. Martinez133 ATT, 525 YD, 13 TDS
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A. Martinez133 ATT, 525 YD, 13 TDS
receiving
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S. LaPorta53 REC, 670 YD, 3 TDS
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S. LaPorta53 REC, 670 YD, 3 TDS
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S. Toure46 REC, 898 YD, 5 TDS
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S. Toure46 REC, 898 YD, 5 TDS
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Nebraska fans are living in a waking nightmare. What was once a 21-6 lead is now a 21-21 tie following an Iowa field goal. Everything that can go wrong for the Huskers has gone wrong, in a repeat of the entire season to this point.

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