Pelini gives Nebraska the go-ahead: If his injury-riddled team would have shown as much fight as beleaguered Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini offered during his postgame comments Friday, the sixth-year coach might feel more comfortable about his future.
Pelini spared few words following the Cornhuskers’ 38-17 loss to Iowa, using profanity to criticize an official’s call and telling reporters he had no regrets about anything involving his program.
“If they want to fire me, go ahead. I believe in what I’ve done. I don’t apologize for what I’ve done,’’ Pelini said. “… Our record speaks for itself. This program’s headed in a good direction.’’
Pelini said talk about his future had become a distraction for a Nebraska team which finished the regular season with an 8-4 record, calling it something that has “hurt our team.’’
The Nebraska coach also didn’t hide his anger about a call made midway through the third quarter when he was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct as he disputed a pass interference call, a pair of penalties which moved the ball to the 15-yard line and set up a field goal which extended the Iowa lead to 17-10.
Pelini said the official told him he got to close to him. He then used profanity to describe the call.
“Excuse my language on that, but I had never seen anything like that before. I’ve done worse things than that,’’ Pelini said. “I saw (Iowa coach) Kirk Ferentz on the side (arguing offsetting unsportsmanlike penalties later in the game) acting a lot worse than I act. I didn’t see a flag come out on him. The bottom line is they knew they blew the call. They blew it. … They just didn’t man up enough to pick up the flag.’’
WATCHING IT END: Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock watched the final 16 minutes of the Hawkeyes’ win from the sideline after suffering a sprained right knee.
The injury came shortly after Rudock hit Kevonte Martin-Manley with a 24-yard touchdown pass and before C.J. Beathard led Iowa on a pair of touchdown drives after the Cornhuskers pulled within 24-17 early in the fourth quarter.
“It’s tough to sit there and watch, but C.J. did a good job. He came in and kept playing the game, moving the offense and that gave us a chance to finish it off,’’ said Rudock, who completed 9-of-15 passes for 126 yards and two scores to complement the Hawkeyes’ 155-yard rushing performance.
STRONG LEG: Punter Connor Kornbrath helped Iowa win the field position battle in the first half, dropping punts on the 1- and 3-yard lines during the second quarter to help the Hawkeyes build an early 14-0 lead.
Kornbrath averaged 40.3 yards for the day, including efforts of 55 and 45 yards in the middle of the second quarter.
HAPPY HOMECOMING: Drew Ott, who grew up about 70 miles west of Memorial Stadium in Trumbull, Neb., finished with four tackles in the first return to his home state for a game as Iowa’s starting defensive end.
“I guess I have bragging rights for the next year,’’ Ott said. “With all the Nebraska fans around, that’s a good thing. I wanted to play well and I wanted our team to play well and we got that done.’’
MISSED CHANCES: Kenny Bell caught seven passes for 67 yards to lead the Cornhuskers, but he said the two interceptions and one fumble Nebraska had were too much to overcome.
“Turnovers, Same story, different week,’’ Bell said. “We have to get it fixed and that’s the players. There’s not much more the coaches can do for us. … We’re making mistakes to lose us games. That’s frustrating.’’
BIG POINTS: Iowa’s 38 points were the most the Hawkeyes have ever scored against the Cornhuskers and the 21-point margin of victory was the biggest by a Nebraska opponent since a 52-17 loss to Missouri in 2008.
MISSING RETURNS: Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz praised the work of the Hawkeyes’ kick coverage unit, which limited Bell to two returns totaling 35 yards.
He entered the game averaging a Big Ten-best 29.5 yards per return.
“I thought we covered kicks better than we have all season,’’ Ferentz said. “He is very dangerous and had one last week (a 99-yarder for a score at Penn State) that he ran back. We did what we needed to do.’’
CLIMBING THE CHARTS: Mark Weisman led Iowa with 72 rushing yards on 22 carries, moving him into the 15th spot on the Iowa’s career rushing charts with 1,752 yards.
“We did what we want,’’ Weisman said. “It’s Big Ten football and you’re going to have to grind it out. Nothing’s going to come easy and it didn’t today.’’
FEASTING ON TURNOVERS: Iowa finished plus-three in turnovers on Friday, improving to 6-0 on the year when it wins the turnover battle.
Nebraska has finished with more turnovers than its opponent in each of its last seven games.
— Steve Batterson