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Hill keeps bench warm to protect old injury

Register Staff Writer

Lincoln, Neb. - Iowa started against the No. 1 team in the country with one of its best weapons on the bench.

Kahlil Hill was used sparingly Saturday, limited primarily to punt returns in the first half of Iowa's 42-13 loss to Nebraska.

"They were just protecting me, trying to make sure an old injury didn't occur. I'm not going to say what it was," Hill said.

The junior didn't aggravate the injury. He would not disclose what the injury was, saying Coach Kirk Ferentz didn't want him to.

Hill played more snaps as a receiver in the second half but caught just one pass for 4 yards.

"We just took a chance. We were trying to make something happen so we figured we'd just give it a shot and hope I didn't re-aggravate anything," Hill said. "When you're playing the No. 1 team in the country, you've got to take a chance."

Hill iced his right shoulder after the game - as he did after the Iowa State game - but said that wasn't his problem.

He said he returned punts because "they didn't have anybody else to return punts and I'd been doing it all week. So they felt comfortable . . . and didn't think there would be any problems there."

Title hunt: Iowa tied its longest losing streak Saturday with its 12th consecutive loss and heads into next weekend's conference opener at Indiana without a Big Ten Conference victory since Oct. 10, 1998.

Still, center A.J. Blazek believes the Hawkeyes can contend for a conference title.

"Our goal is to win the Big Ten and the way you saw the Hawks play (Saturday), if we can put a whole game together I don't see any reason we can't," Blazek said. "That may be stepping out of my bounds or saying something I shouldn't, but I believe the Hawks can win this thing.

"I saw that Wisconsin lost (to Northwestern Saturday). This whole conference is up for grabs."

Sack attack: Nebraska sacked Iowa quarterback Scott Mullen six times Saturday after getting just two sacks in its previous two games combined.

Five sacks came in the second half, after defensive coordinator Craig Bohl used more packages designed for his Cobra squad - five players focused on blitzing the quarterback.

Bohl said Iowa was "doing some pretty sophisticated things" to stave off blitzes in the first half. Nebraska adjusted at halftime.

"In the third quarter they shocked us pretty good with some new blitzes and we picked them up pretty good toward the end of the third quarter," Blazek said. "Then we got into the fourth quarter and they started bringing it every down."

Passing grade: In its first two games, Nebraska passed for just 194 yards and one touchdown. Saturday, quarterback Eric Crouch threw for 159 yards and tied a school record with five touchdowns.

Tight end Tracey Wistrom caught three of Crouch's touchdown passes, tying a school record.

"It was a great day," Crouch said. "It's nice to know the passing game is there when we need it."

Quick hits: Iowa defensive lineman Anthony Herron had his left knee iced after aggravating an earlier injury in the second half.

* Hawkeyes cornerback Benny Sapp had both knees in ice after taking what he called a low block toward the end of the second half. He played the rest of the game.

* Iowa offensive guard Eric Steinbach, who injured an ankle last weekend, did not play.

* Iowa offensive tackle David Porter hurt his left ankle in the first half. The ankle was re-taped, but he was replaced by Sam Aiello.

* Nebraska linebacker Mark Vedral, acquitted eight days ago in a sexual assault trial, had two tackles playing as a reserve. He had been suspended since being charged in May.

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