APTOPIX Iowa Nebraska Football

In today's Pinstripe Bowl, Iowa looks to enjoy another postgame celebration like this one that tight end Noah Fant enjoyed after a win at Nebraska last month. The Hawkeyes are 0-5 in their most recent bowl appearances.


Five things to think about over the next few days following the Iowa football team's 56-14 rout of Nebraska on Friday in Lincoln:

1. The good

It took some time, but Iowa's offense regained a rhythm that had been absent since the Ohio State game on Nov. 4 during the second half of Friday's win.

Even before that, Nate Stanley was on the same page with Hawkeye receivers, hitting 11-of-15 pass attempts during the first two quarters.

An effective start on the ground helped open play action possibilities which led Iowa to average 7.5 yards on each of its 67 offensive plays against the Cornhuskers.

The growth came on the ground, where Akrum Wadley did more than became the first Hawkeye since Fred Russell in 2002-03 to reach 1,000 rushing yards in consecutive seasons.

The senior averaged 8.4 yards per carry on his 19 rushes against the Cornhuskers, moving with a purpose that allowed Iowa to enjoy its most productive game of the season on offense.

That work started up front, where the same lineup that looked disjointed at times against Wisconsin and Purdue physically manhandled Nebraska. The Cornhuskers' defense has struggled throughout the season and to its credit, Iowa made certain that didn't change on Friday.

2. The feel good

The two Nebraska natives who saw action on Friday for Iowa - one wanted by the Cornhuskers and one who didn't get a look from his home state school during the recruiting process - both helped the Hawkeyes to a third straight win in the Heroes Game.

Noah Fant enjoyed every step of his 68-yard sprint down the west sideline at Memorial Stadium, catching his second touchdown pass of the day to extend Iowa's lead to 42-14 late in the third quarter.

The sophomore tight end from Omaha, who was a primary recruiting target of the Cornhuskers, had a career day in seeing his first collegiate action in his home state. Fant caught a three passes for a career-best 116 yards, work that also included a four-yard touchdown reception with 25 seconds left in the second quarter to send the teams in the locker room tied at 14-14.

Senior defensive tackle Nathan Bazata didn't get a sniff from Nebraska recruiters coming out of an eight-man program at Howells-Dodge High School.

He got the last laugh for the third straight year, helping the Iowa defense limit Nebraska to 94 yards of offense in the second half after blowing up a fake field goal try that turned into a five-yard loss in the first half.

It was no surprise that Bazata led the charge of Iowa players to the south end zone at Memorial Stadium to reclaim the Heroes Game trophy. This win was for keeps.

3. The real good

Iowa's veterans did their thing against Nebraska, but one of the most encouraging aspects of Friday's win was the play of Hawkeye freshmen.

Three true freshmen provided consistent contributions on the Iowa defense as it turned Nebraska away in the second half.

A.J. Epenesa rotated at an end position as he has effectively done throughout much of the season, finishing with a tackle for a loss.

On the back end, Matt Hankins recorded five tackles and broke up a pass in his starting debut at right cornerback and Geno Stone stepped in at strong safety in place of injured Miles Taylor and ended up matching the team Josey Jewell's team-leading tackle total with eight stops.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz thanked Stone's mother following the game.

"When we were trying to get him out here for a visit last January, he didn't want to come. Basically, she and the high school coach threw him in a car and made him come,'' Ferentz said.

"I'm just glad he's here and not Kent State. I think he feels the same way.''

4. The perplexing

Iowa ended November the way it began the month - by delivering a big-time beatdown to a traditional college football power.

As dominant as the Hawkeyes were in routing Ohio State and Nebraska, it still leaves the unanswered question - what happened in the two games between.

Wisconsin is part of the answer to that. The Badgers and particularly the Badgers' defense has been salty all season. Wisconsin never gave Iowa a chance to get things going that afternoon.

Coach Kirk Ferentz has maintained since that day that Wisconsin had as much to do with Iowa's issues in Madison as Iowa did. He's right. Much like Iowa in 2015, the Badgers are having a special season.

The Hawkeyes weren't the Hawkeyes the following week, though, against Purdue. That outcome remains as surprising as the Ohio State result.

The Boilermakers had plenty to play for that day and on Saturday, they joined eight other teams Iowa has played this season that are eligible to play in a bowl game.

Purdue earned that win at Kinnick against a Hawkeye team that lacked the energy and execution it displayed in both beginning and ending the month with dominating efforts.

5. The ugly

There's something to be said for stability.

In Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz, Iowa has had two football coaches over the past 39 seasons.

They have led consistent, stable programs which have dealt with a few peaks and valleys along the way but have also been consistently successful on and off the field.

As the ugly season of coaching changes begins, think about that.

Think about how former Hawkeye Bret Bielema was shown the door at Arkansas before many fans had a chance to leave the stadium following a Friday loss to Missouri.

Think about the revolving door the coaching position at Nebraska has become since Frank Solich was fired for not being Tom Osborne.

Mike Riley became the latest casualty there on Saturday, taken down by unrealistic expectations in a game that has changed since the Cornhuskers won their most recent conference championship two years ago.