Nebraska overcomes Iowa 'D' despite turnovers
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Nebraska had too much talent and too many bodies. On a hot day, all those bodies made a difference.
Leading just 7-0 after a mistake-laden first half, TSN's No. 5 Nebraska returned to form in the second half behind quarterbacks Bobby Newcombe and Eric Crouch and beat Iowa 42-7 Saturday.
Newcombe atoned for three first-half turnovers by running for two touchdowns and passing for another, and Crouch scored three times as the Cornhuskers wore down the Hawkeyes with their depth and spoiled the debut of Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz.
"We knew they were going to start wearing out," Nebraska running back Dan Alexander said. "Our offensive line had been hitting on them, they were starting to get bruised. Things started opening up that weren't there in the first half."
Newcombe, who won a highly publicized battle with Crouch for the starting job, threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to Sean Applegate to get the Cornhuskers going early in the third quarter, then had scoring runs of 1 and 5 yards to stretch the lead to 28-0.
Crouch sprinted 28 yards for Nebraska's first touchdown and scored on fourth-quarter runs of 6 and 21 yards as the Hawkeyes wilted in the heat. It was 85 degrees at kickoff and 92 by the fourth quarter.
"I got a little frustrated early," Nebraska coach Frank Solich said. "But sometimes we're going to struggle early. Eventually we find a way to put points on the board, maybe break a big play."
Newcombe said the offense put too much pressure on itself to make big plays early. He said the touchdown pass was the key to getting back on track.
"We really came out and scored quickly. I believe we can do that as an offense," Newcombe said. "That right there relieved the pressure on the offensive line, receivers and myself big time."
Ferentz, a former Iowa and NFL assistant, replaced Hayden Fry, who retired last November after 20 years as Iowa's coach. His first team showed plenty of early zip on defense but none on offense.
Iowa's deepest penetration was to the Nebraska 33 early in the fourth quarter, a drive that ended when Julius Jackson intercepted Kyle McCann's pass, and the Hawkeyes had just 169 total yards.
"Obviously, it wasn't too enjoyable," Ferentz said. "It wasn't a lot of fun. We just didn't get it done offensively. Offense is a lot about tempo and timing, and we never got either established."
Iowa averted a shutout when Doug Miller blocked Dan Hadenfeldt's punt and Tim Dodge, a sprinter on the track team, scooped up the ball and went 10 yards for a touchdown with 2:30 left.
"That hurt real bad," Nebraska cornerback Ralph Brown said. "We worked so hard to get that goose egg. That was on special teams, so we weren't out there and couldn't do anything about it. But it's going to show up on the scoreboard and a lot of people are going to think that was our defense."
Newcombe was limited to six games last season by a knee injury and didn't play after Oct. 21. He wasn't sharp early, losing two fumbles and throwing an interception, but eventually settled in, completing 7-of-10 passes for 128 yards and rushing for 35 yards.
Crouch was sharp when he got his chances. He ran right through defensive back Mikkel Brown on his last touchdown and finished with 92 yards in five carries. Nebraska had 543 yards, 347 on the ground.
"Where are our two quarterbacks?" Solich said. "I'd say we're right where we're at with it. Both of them I thought really played well. I expected that would be the case. We have two outstanding quarterbacks. They both will be used."
Nebraska was frustrated early by Iowa's inspired defense and Newcombe's turnovers.
The Hawkeyes stopped Nebraska on downs at their 36 and 22, Matt Stockdale foiled another drive by intercepting a Newcombe pass and Newcombe lost two fumbles, bobbling a snap at the Iowa 15 and making a bad pitch at the Iowa 10.
But Iowa's offense couldn't capitalize. With a line that had two starters playing their first college game and another making his first start, the Hawkeyes went three-and-out on their first five possessions. They didn't get a first down until just 3:36 remained in the opening half.
"We have to play with who we have," Ferentz said. "We have to keep trying to get better."
Nebraska's lone touchdown in the opening half came on the first series that Crouch ran. Starting on the Iowa 47, Nebraska drove to the 28 in three plays before Crouch kept the ball on an option to the right, split two defenders as he turned upfield and went the rest of the way untouched.
It was much different in the second half. On Nebraska's third play of the half, Newcombe hit the wide-open Applegate at the Iowa 29 and Applegate had a clear path to the end zone.
Moments later, Nebraska's Kyle Vanden Bosch recovered Ladell Betts' fumble at the Iowa 29. DeAngelo Evans then went 22 yards on a fake reverse, Newcombe scored from the 1 two plays later and the Cornhuskers were off and running.
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