Slowly but surely, Nebraska plows a path on the groundPosted September 4, 1999
By Jim Ecker
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IOWA CITY -- Kirk Ferentz blew a big bubble as he jogged off the field at Kinnick Stadium Saturday afternoon, seemingly without a care in the world.
It was a disguise, of course, because the Iowa Hawkeyes are a long way from being a good football team and Ferentz has plenty of work to do as Hayden Fry's successor.
Iowa kept fifth-ranked Nebraska off the scoreboard for 22 minutes in the first half Saturday before wilting in the 92-degree heat and succumbing, 42-7, in Ferentz's debut as head coach.
The Hawkeyes did not mount an attack of their own, but trailing the No. 5 team in the country 7-0 at halftime counts for something.
"That's what you enjoy in football. We were in a ball game at that point," Ferentz said.
It didn't last, but the sellout crowd of 70,397 -- swelled by a sea of red-clad Nebraska fans -- got its money's worth, whether it was the $33 face value or the $75 charged by scalpers.
Linebacker Aaron Kampman led an inspired defensive effort in the first half and the score was still 0-0 midway through the second quarter. If only the Hawks had an offense.
"In the first half I thought we played pretty good defense for the most part," Ferentz said. "We played hard and we played well. Obviously, the offense didn't help out."
Iowa did not collect its initial first down until there was 3:36 left in the half, eliciting a roar from U of I fans. The Hawks did not drive inside the 30-yard line all day. The lone touchdown was on a blocked punt and recovery by Tim Dodge late in the game.
The Hawks finished with 169 yards, a far cry from Nebraska's 543.
Nebraska defenders used Iowa quarterback Kyle McCann as a punching bag, belting him to the ground time after time. He must have a taken two dozen good shots.
"I don't know if anybody kept track," McCann said, sitting on a soft couch after the game. "I'm real tired and fatigued right now. I'm pretty worn down."
The Cornhuskers seemed to have two of everything Saturday: Two quarterbacks, two tailbacks, two sets of linemen and too much of everything that matters.
Bobby Newcombe, Nebraska's No. 1 quarterback, ran for two touchdowns and passed for another. Eric Crouch, the No. 2 QB, ran for three scores and planted Hawkeye defensive back Mikkel Brown into the turf on a 21-yard tally in the fourth quarter.
The Cornhuskers showed up with 88 good players, too many for the Hawks to handle.
And besides, the only fans left in Kinnick were the red-clad Nebraskans. They made Kinnick a punchline Saturday, as in what's black, white and red all over.
When you have a perfect game going, everyone dwells on the weak dribbler to left.
"I feel a little badly for (the defense), because they really played shutout defense," Nebraska Coach Frank Solich said.
The Huskers allowed just 57 rushing yards -- an average of 2.2 on 26 carries -- and 169 yards total offense. Iowa made just eight first downs and didn't get its first until 3:36 in the second quarter when McCann completed a 6-yard pass to tight end Austin Wheatley.
It was hard to tell if the applause from the Kinnick crowd was out of derision or relief.
"At Nebraska, we set high expectations," middle linebacker Carlos Polk said.
"When they got that first down, we were disappointed. And when they got that drive going, we were disappointed. That's our mentality. On defense this year, we want to play every play to its full potential."
Iowa doesn't appear to have any answers for last year's plague of quarterback sacks.
The Hawkeyes lost their top three QBs at different times last season while the offensive line allowed 52 sacks.
During ABC's telecast Saturday there was a montage of McCann sacks and knockdowns.
It looked like something out of a mosh pit.
"We kept hitting him and staying after him," Polk said, "but he kept getting up. You've got to commend him for that. He played with a lot of heart."
It's football season, and, for now, that's open season on Iowa quarterbacks.
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