College Football: Nebraska 20, Iowa 7
By Brett Martel
LINCOLN, Neb. ó Nebraskaís Rex Burkhead hurt so good after running over and around Iowa.
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 Nebraskaís 20-7 win Friday.
ěA little sore ó definitely a little sore,î Burkhead said afterward. ěIt feels good. It was a great win. To see the seniors go out in that fashion. Thatís the best thing.î
Burkhead pounded away at Iowaís 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 weekís loss at Michigan.
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.
ěWhatever coach Beck wanted to do, whatever the team needed to do ó pound the rock and throw passes when we needed to,î Burkhead said.
The win kept alive Nebraskaís 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 Peliniís four seasons and for the 38th time in 42 seasons.
ěEvery now and then you guys might be a little critical of us,î safety Austin Cassidy told reporters, ěbut nine wins, thatís a dang-good season no matter how you cut it. Itís 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 weíre old and reflecting on the season, nine wins is something weíre going to be proud of.î
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.
ěThey played a game you would script out if you were them,î he said. ěWe werenít up to the challenge today.î
With Nebraska having joined the Big Ten this year, Fridayís game was long touted as the start of a natural rivalry. Iowa is Nebraskaís 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 ěHeroes Gameî and honored ěcitizen heroesî 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.
ěI donít think fatigue was a factor,î Iowa linebacker James Morris said. ěThere were times we were able to get off the field. Then there were times when they had prolonged drives. Thatís football, but thatís also a failure on our part.î
Burkhead ran on nine of 15 plays of an 80-yard drive that produced the Huskersí 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.
ěIt was a huge drive for us,î Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. ěNot only did it give us great momentum going into the half, it gave us a two-score lead. Thatís 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.î
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.
Nebraskaís 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.
ěI didnít want to do it in that fashion,î Burkhead said. ěThe rest of the line said they wanted me to do it for them, so they could be a part of it. I said, ëAll right, Iíll do it for you guys.î
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.
ěThat was a group of warriors today,î Pelini said. ěWeíre 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.î
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 Huskersí first play from scrimmage and then going for 8 and 6 yards. Ameer Abdullah spelled him, but never for more than two consecutive plays.
ěHe didnít practice very much, and I wasnít sure if heíd play or not,î Martinez said of Burkhead. ěIím glad he played.î
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 Iowaís record-setting receiver to two catches for 1 yard through three quarters. McNutt finished with four catches for 29 yards.
ěIím a competitive guy, and they told me I was going against him,î Dennard said. ěI was up for the challenge.î
The Associated Press