Sports News

Too much to overcome

By Steve Batterson, QUAD-CITY TIMES -- September 5, 1999
IOWA CITY -- From the start, it was a struggle Saturday for the Iowa football team.

"All day, it seemed like we didn't do much on first down," new coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We couldn't get anything going and that makes it tough on your offense."

It didn't do much to help an overworked Hawkeye defense, either.

Iowa did what it could to contain fifth-ranked Nebraska's potent

offensive attack, but the heat of the battle and the day eventually took its toll as the Cornhuskers scored 35 straight points in the second half to pull

away to a 42-7 rout at Kinnick Stadium that spoiled Ferentz' debut on the Hawkeye sideline.

"Things kind of got away from us in the second half," defensive tackle Jerry Montgomery said. "We were out on the field an awful lot. I think we all got a little tired by the time the fourth quarter rolled around.

"We did our job in the first half but we didn't have enough left at the end. You can't play that way against a team like Nebraska."

The defense never had much of a chance to catch its breath, in part because of an offense that managed a total of 23 yards on the first down plays that started its 14 possessions

in the game.

That averages to a gain of 1.4 yards per play, a number that left the Hawkeyes with too much to overcome against one of the nation's top defensive teams.

"That changes everything," Ferentz said. "If you can't move it on first down, it's tough. Moving the ball consistently when you're second-and-long and third-and-long is a tough thing to do. It's tough to call plays in those situations."

It all added up to a nearly 12-minute advantage in possession time for the Cornhuskers, who mixed and matched quarterbacks but found a spark when Eric Crouch came in off the bench.

Replacing starter Bobby Newcombe, Crouch came in and needed just 1 minute, 35 seconds to march Nebraska 47 yards on four plays midway through the second quarter.

He kept the ball on an option to the right side with 7:54 left in the half, scampering 28 yards for a score that moved the Cornhuskers ahead to stay.

"I suspect our team was a little frustrated early. I know I was frustrated early. But, that's typically how it goes," Nebraska coach Frank Solich said. "You don't often dominate early in the game."

Crouch's score provided the Cornhuskers with their only points of the first half, something that gave the Hawkeyes hope.

"We were excited at the half," Iowa linebacker Aaron Kampman said. "We proved that we could play with them. We felt like we were in the game and had a chance."

It proved to be a mirage.

By then, the Cornhuskers enjoyed a 2-to-1 edge in possession time, tiring a defense that had taken the field six times before Iowa managed its first first down of the season.

Former Rock Island prep Austin Wheatley became the first Hawkeye to move the chains, grabbing a five-yard pass from Kyle McCann on a 3rd-and-2 play with 3:36 seconds remaining in the second quarter.

"It was tough out there," Wheatley said. "Nebraska was the biggest problem we had. Our offensive line is inexperienced, but there wasn't much anybody could do against those guys."

The Hawkeyes managed just 63 yards and four first downs in the first half and just 169 yards for the game.

Ladell Betts led Iowa with 73 yards on the ground, but fumbled twice.

His first came on the first snap after Wheatley picked up the Hawkeyes' first first down and his second came three plays after Newcombe had extended the Cornhuskers' lead to 14-0 with a 47-yard touchdown pass to Sean Applegate early in the third quarter.

Three plays later following Betts' drop at the Iowa 29-yard line, Newcombe scored on a 1-yard keeper and Nebraska's lead grew to 21-0.

"It's frustrating," Betts said. "The mistakes hurt us and it's frustrating not being able to move the ball. There weren't a lot of holes out there."

Newcombe and Crouch found their share of holes, orchestrating an offense that piled up 543 yards.

The Cornhuskers' rotating quarterbacks combined to hit 10-of-15 passes for 196 yards and rushed for 127 yards while scoring all five of Nebraska's rushing touchdowns.

It's a two-quarterback situation that Solich doesn't necessarily like, but one he's learning to live with.

"Where are we with our two quarterbacks? I'd say right where we want to be," Solich said.

Ferentz cannot say the same.

Iowa's McCann and Scott Mullen -- who worked only one series late in the fourth quarter -- combined to hit just 11-of-30 pass attempts for 112 yards.

"We have a lot of work to do," Ferentz said. "It's a disappointing loss, but I'm not discouraged. We have a long way to go as a football team."

Special teams accounted for the only points that Iowa put on the board.

Working against Nebraska's second-team punting unit, Doug Miller blocked a punt and Tim Dodge picked the ball up on one hop. He returned it 10 yards for the score with 2:30 to play.