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Skid hits dirty dozen
No. 1 Nebraska hands Hawkeyes their 12th straight defeat
By RANDY PETERSON
Register Staff Writer
Nebraska Cornhuskers 42; Iowa Hawkeyes 13
Lincoln, Neb. - Iowa hung with the top-ranked football team in the nation for a while Saturday. Then everything returned to normal at Memorial Stadium.
The Hawkeyes scored on the first drive of the game, then trailed by only a point before Nebraska started playing like Nebraska.
The Cornhuskers scored with no time remaining on the clock at the end of the first half, then again on their first drive of the second half and beat Iowa, 42-13, in a game that was closer than the six-touchdown blowout predicted by the oddsmakers in Las Vegas.
"This could very well be the best we've played since Kirk Ferentz has been our coach," Iowa defensive lineman Anthony Herron said.
The loss was Iowa's 12th in a row, matching a school record.
Ferentz has a 1-14 record since replacing Hayden Fry at Iowa following the 1998 season.
The 0-4 start is the worst at Iowa since 1973.
"There were a lot of positives out there for us, like that opening drive," Ferentz said. "But our nemesis continues; (our defense) just can't get off the field on third down."
This loss was expected. Unexpected was the closeness of the score, how well Iowa played at times and the way the Hawkeyes opened the game.
Quarterback Scott Mullen and receiver Kevin Kasper were in sync. Tailback Ladell Betts had room to run. The offensive line blocked well.
And just 3 minutes into the game, Iowa stunned the crowd of 78,070.
"After the first play, Sam Aiello came back to the huddle and said, 'We can block these guys,' " Iowa center A.J. Blazek said.
They scored, too, on a 29-yard reception by Kasper, who outjumped Erwin Swiney and Joe Walker for the ball. Suddenly, it was 7-0 Hawkeyes.
"It was a great drive," said Mullen, who finished with 19 completions for 252 yards. "It went according to the script."
The drive started at the Iowa 24-yard line and included three runs by Betts that totaled 26 yards, a 12-yard pass to fullback Henry Pollio, then Kasper's catch.
But Nebraska tied the score on the first of quarterback Eric Crouch's school record-tying five touchdown passes, a 31-yarder to Matt Davison. For the first time since 1998, Nebraska failed to rush for a touchdown in a regular-season game.
"We figured they'd come into the game trying to establish their pass," Ferentz said.
Nebraska led, 14-7, in the second quarter after Tracey Wistrom caught a 12-yard scoring pass from Crouch. Iowa closed to within 14-10 on a 40-yard field goal by Nate Kaeding.
Kaeding struck again, this time from 39 yards, as the Hawkeyes made it 14-13 just 1:44 before halftime.
Actually, it was at 1:44 when Nebraska started doing what it usually does to opponents. The Cornhuskers moved the ball at will, starting with their final drive of the first half.
The possession started at the Nebraska 20-yard line. Seven plays later, Davison slithered between Iowa defenders Ryan Hansen and Benny Sapp for a 43-yard scoring catch that gave the Cornhuskers a 21-13 halftime lead.
"We didn't get to the quarterback on the blitz," cornerback Tim Dodge said. "He threw it like a Hail Mary. We were supposed to drop back deep and we had guys there to make the play. They just didn't.
"It was a bonehead play on our part and a great play on their part."
To make matters worse, the play happened on third down.
"Naturally," Ferentz said.
"We're really struggling on that down for some reason."
Crouch credited his receiver.
"He did a great job adjusting to the ball," Crouch said. "I was just throwing it to an area."
The Cornhuskers added another touchdown on their first drive of the third quarter, this time on a 10-yard pass from Crouch to Wistrom. They also connected on a 4-yard scoring pass in the fourth quarter. Nebraska closed the scoring when Troy Watchorn returned a Mullen interception 39 yards for a touchdown.
Actually, the game was over long before that. Mullen was sacked five times in the second half. Iowa's offense mustered just 88 yards after intermission.
"We moved the ball against a team that we felt we'd have trouble running and passing against," Nebraska Coach Frank Solich said. "Iowa blitzed more today than we expected. Actually, the final score was maybe not indicative of how tough a football game it was."
"No way," Iowa linebacker Aaron Kampman said. "We lost the football game."
Iowa's losing streak
Saturday's defeat at Lincoln was the 12th straight for the Hawkeyes under Coach Kirk Ferentz.
Michigan State 49, Iowa 3 - The Spartans had 511 yards, compared to 107 for Iowa.
Penn State 31, Iowa 7 - Iowa's defense allowed 500 yards and the final 17 points.
Northwestern 23, Iowa 21 - Iowa led, 21-16, until Zak Kustok scored with 2 seconds to play.
Indiana 38, Iowa 31 - Iowa QB Scott Mullen's 36 completions and 426 passing yards were wasted.
Ohio State 41, Iowa 11 - The Buckeyes scored on their first three possessions.
Illinois 40, Iowa 24 - Illinois scored 24 points in the second half.
Wisconsin 41, Iowa 3 - Ron Dayne broke the NCAA career rushing record.
Minnesota 25, Iowa 21 - The Hawks squandered a 21-10 halftime lead.
Kansas State 27, Iowa 7 - Iowa trailed by only 10 points with 9 minutes to play.
Western Michigan 27, Iowa 21 - Couldn't recover after 24-6 first-half deficit.
Iowa State 24, Iowa 14 - Third loss in a row against a team the Hawkeyes once owned.
Nebraska 42, Iowa 13 - All Huskers in the second half.
Iowa's skid No. 2
Buffalo defeated Bowling Green, 28-17, Saturday to snap a 16-game losing streak. Iowa's 12-game skid is now the second-longest in the country, behind Ball State, which has lost 19 games in a row.