IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A stream of consciousness listing of what we liked and what we didn't in Nebraska's game Friday with Iowa.
What We Liked
-- On a day where the wind gusted upwards of 40 miles per hour, Nebraska came out of the gates running the ball right at Iowa. The Huskers didn't get great field position on their first possession, but methodically moved the ball against the Hawkeye defense. Nebraska picked up several third downs on the drive by going straight ahead at Iowa, and only throwing a short dump pass to Ameer Abdullah to pick up a third down. On a day where the wind as going to be a constant issue, Nebraska took that variable out of the equation with a power running game. The 16-play, 75-yard drive only ended in a field goal, but it set an early tone for the Huskers, who showed they could run against a physical Iowa defensive front.
-- Walk-on center Mark Pelini was forced into action on Nebraska's opening drive when Justin Jackson limped off the field. Pelini performed well on short notice, helping Nebraska put up points on its first possession.
-- The mix of Ameer Abdullah and Braylon Heard helped Nebraska move the ball on the opening drive. Heard looked especially good for the Huskers -- he should be fresh after all -- cutting into the Iowa secondary and looking shifty as well.
-- After Nebraska was stopped on its second offensive possession, Brett Maher's 61-yard punt pinned Iowa deep in its own territory. The Huskers got a big defensive stop and forced the Hawkeyes to punt into the wind deep in their own territory.
-- Nebraska asked a lot of senior defensive end Cameron Meredith, who had to move down to defensive tackle after Baker Steinkuhler left the game in the second quarter with an injury. Meredith held his own at times, despite weighing about 30-40 pounds less than Nebraska's other defensive linemen.
-- The Blackshirts played well in the first half despite being put into some pretty tough spots by Nebraska's offense and special teams. The Huskers played tough against Iowa's run game in the second quarter to keep the Huskers in the game despite a bad first half by the offense.
-- We liked the addition of Rex Burkhead to the Nebraska lineup in the second half. Nebraska needed a boost offensively, and Burkhead's presence at least got Nebraska's juices flowing a bit on the first offensive possession. He didn't look particularly fast or shifty, but Burkhead gave Nebraska some much needed positive energy coming out of halftime.
-- Eric Martin. He had a huge, disruptive game on Friday. His sack and strip of Vandenberg on the first play of the fourth quarter got Nebraska off the field on third down.
-- The officials weren't throwing many flags, but Nebraska didn't commit a penalty in the first three quarters of play.
-- With Nebraska backed up in its own end zone, Rex Burkhead put together two back-to-back runs that got Nebraska first downs and out of trouble. Those were the kinds of runs that only Burkhead can give Nebraska's offense. In a game of field position, moving the ball 20 yards was huge.
What We Didn't
-- Nebraska's defense on the opening drive left quite a bit to be desired. After Nebraska took the lead to start the game, Iowa came right back and ran the ball straight at Nebraska's defense, ending a 12-play drive with a touchdown. It was macho football and the Hawkeyes were getting whatever they wanted on the ground. Of the first 27 plays run by each team on their opening drives, 25 were running plays. It was a big-time gut check drive by the Hawkeyes.
-- Justin Jackson going down on Nebraska's first drive of the game. The senior center appeared to get his ankle rolled on during a running play, and he limped badly to the sideline.
-- Punt returns again. A fumbled punt by Ameer Abdullah cost Nebraska big-time momentum wise in the second quarter. Nebraska got a big stop, and Ameer Abdullah was trying to field a punt at the Iowa 40-yard line when he muffed a punt that was recovered by Iowa, that essentially served as a long pass and robbed Nebraska's offense of a prime scoring opportunity. With the way the wind was blowing, Abdullah would have basically caught the ball in field goal range already.
-- Sigh. Turnovers. Nebraska still can't stay out of its own way. The Huskers also seem to find new and creative ways to give up the football. In the first half, that included a fumbled punt return, and a play where Taylor Martinez fumbled when he was hit by fullback Andy Janovich who was attempting to block.
-- Nebraska looked good on its opening offensive drive, but after that, the Huskers played easily their worst half of offense of the season. Nebraska never got its tempo going in the first half, and was never really able to stretch the Hawkeye defense with the passing game, so the Hawkeyes were able to slowly choke off the Husker running game in the first half.
-- After its opening drive, Nebraska's offense managed just 17 yards of total offense in the first half.
-- Nebraska never developed any kind of offensive rhythm in the game, and when the Huskers tried to kick up the tempo, the Huskers were unable to complete enough short passes to keep Iowa's defense guessing.
-- The TV timeouts. Good God was this an NFL game? Move it along.