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The fifth quarter: Hawkeyes rewarded for their resiliency
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The fifth quarter: Hawkeyes rewarded for their resiliency

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Five things to think about following the Iowa football team's 28-21 victory Friday at Nebraska:

1. The good

Defense. Special teams. They've been constant complements to an offense that has showed its youth at times this season.

For the third time this season, the Hawkeyes collected points from all three phases of the game, and scores from the defense and special teams were needed to earn a 10th victory of the season.

Iowa earned its spot at the top of the Big Ten West Division standings playing complementary football, grinding out victories and showing the type of resiliency it takes to overcome deficits.

Friday was no different as the Hawkeyes ignored a 21-6 deficit, scoring the final 22 points of the game to earn the right to be called division champs for the first time since 2015.

"I feel like we earned it. We played our hearts out this whole year," Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum said. "Resilient team. Never quit. No matter what the outcome (of Saturday's Wisconsin-Minnesota game), just proud of the guys. Just proud of how we fought all year."

2. The comeback

The decision to make a switch at quarterback at halftime was a reasonable one.

Alex Padilla was struggling to connect with his receivers — connecting on three of his final nine attempts after a 3-of-5 start — and the Hawkeyes were struggling to finish, coming away with two field goals and getting stopped at the 1-yard line on a first-quarter drive.

Among Hawkeye players who dealt with the flu earlier in the week, Padilla's passes were not as crisp as he had been in previous outings.

Spencer Petras, now healthy and also having missed a practice earlier in the week with the flu, was given a chance to see if he could make something, anything happen.

The junior, who helped lead Iowa to wins in 13 of the 17 games he has started, delivered, connecting on four of his first five passes for 72 yards as part of a 7-of-13 game.

Ultimately, Petras scored the game-winning points on a 2-yard carry into the end zone.

He simply appreciated the opportunity.

"My number was called today and we were able to execute," Petras said.

3. The great story

Kirk Ferentz has always said Iowa needs "great stories'' to emerge for Hawkeye teams to maximize their potential.

In the final two regular-season games of his career, Henry Marchese became one of those great stories.

From his key block that allowed Charlie Jones to craft a 100-yard kickoff return against Illinois to blasting through untouched to block a punt in the opening minute of the fourth quarter Friday in Lincoln, Marchese enjoyed the Kodak moments of a lifetime.

"The blocked punt was the game," Nebraska coach Scott Frost said, referencing the momentum-changing play.

Marchese, whose father John played at Iowa from 1982-86, bounced around between receiver and defensive back during his time at Iowa before finding a home on special teams and in creating opponent's looks to help Iowa starters prepare.

"Not playing on offense, not playing on defense, maybe you find a role on special teams, take pride in it and help the team win," Ferentz said. "That's two straight weeks for him. You just never know how a guy is going to help you."

4. The big picture

Friday's victory was Iowa's 19th win against Big Ten competition over the last three seasons.

That's the most success the Hawkeyes have had within in the Big Ten since winning 20 league games between 2002-04.

Iowa's success has been consistent, winning at least six Big Ten games in each of the past three seasons for the first time in coach Kirk Ferentz's tenure.

Until this season, the most recent time the Hawkeyes won at least six conference games in three straight seasons was between 1981-83 when Iowa also won 19 Big Ten games.

5. The step forward

Iowa still has plenty to do as it works toward its next game, but the Hawkeyes are showing signs of growth.

Tyler Goodson's career-high 156 rushing yards and the Hawkeyes' season-high average of 5 yards per carry on 37 attempts illustrate not only the skill of the junior running back who topped 1,000 yards but also the progress being made by Iowa's offensive line.

That's tangible progress, blended in with room to grow.

Goodson's fumble inside the 10-yard line and Sam LaPorta's inability to hold onto a 1-yard touchdown reception in the first half provided the Cornhuskers with momentum-seizing opportunities as well.

But, Iowa has grown enough to answer those moments, among the reasons why the Hawkeyes are a 10-win, division champion team.


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