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Iowa rolls past No. 16 Nebraska 40-10

By
Brendan Stiles, The Sports Xchange

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Iowa dominated in every facet of the game against 16th-ranked Nebraska on Friday, defeating the Cornhuskers 40-10 at Kinnick Stadium.

Iowa's victory over Nebraska guarantees that No. 6 Wisconsin will represent the Big Ten West Division in Indianapolis for next week's conference championship game.

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Explosive plays throughout the first half propelled the Hawkeyes to their third win over the Cornhuskers in the last four seasons.

"All we can do is go by what was absolutely tangible and we got beat in all phases of the game," Nebraska head coach Mike Riley said. "We're all responsible for that. I think we were prepared with assignments, but that's about it."

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The first score came in the first quarter when junior running back Akrum Wadley ran untouched for a 75-yard touchdown. A blocked extra-point try kept the score 6-0.

Moments later, Iowa (8-4, 6-3 Big Ten) struck again when senior quarterback C.J. Beathard connected on a pass with a wide-open Riley McCarron, who proceeded to outrun Nebraska's secondary for a 77-yard touchdown reception to make it 13-0.

"That was a call from the sidelines," Beathard said. "I didn't have to wait for the second window and complete it on the run. Riley did a great job of making the catch and turning it into six points."

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Nebraska (9-3, 6-3) responded in the second quarter with a 10-play scoring drive that ended with kicker Drew Brown connecting on a 35-yard field goal.

But Iowa came right back with a 4-yard touchdown run by senior running back LeShun Daniels Jr. to extend the lead to 20-3 heading into halftime.

Daniels' score was set up by a run he had two plays earlier when he scampered 56 yards before being pulled down at the Nebraska 8-yard line. He finished with 158 yards rushing on 29 carries.

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"(Iowa fullback Brady Ross) got a real nice block and allowed me to slide right through and get a stiff arm," Daniels said. "Obviously, I would have loved to have finished the play, but it was just an excellent job by everybody. They all got to the right spots and I was able to go make a play, go out there and run."

The third quarter started with the Hawkeyes continuing to dominate. After the defense forced a three-and-out, Nebraska was called for a face-mask penalty on Desmond King's punt return, which gave Iowa the ball at Nebraska's 13-yard line.

Three plays later, Beathard found senior tight end George Kittle for the first of his two second-half touchdown receptions to make the score 26-3. Iowa attempted a two-point conversion after the Cornhuskers were called offside on a missed PAT attempt but did not convert.

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Nebraska's best drive of the day came during the third quarter when the Cornhuskers marched 75 yards and ended a 14-play possession with a 13-yard touchdown pass by senior quarterback Tommy Armstrong to sophomore receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. on a fourth-and-10 play.

Outside of that possession when Armstrong completed five passes, he had a lackluster performance. He finished just 13 of 35 for 125 yards through the air. It was also Armstrong's first game back after injuring his hamstring two weeks ago against Minnesota.

"When I got hit that first time, that was a reality check, like, 'Ooh, this is going to be a long game,'" Armstrong said, adding that the first time he was hit came during the Cornhuskers' first possession of the game.

Iowa delivered the knockout punch in the fourth quarter when Beathard found Kittle again for a 6-yard touchdown pass to make it a three-possession game. This touchdown came after a running-into-the-kicker penalty on Nebraska was accepted even though Iowa kicker Keith Duncan made a 32-yard field goal on the play. Daniels tacked on his second touchdown run in the closing minutes.

For the Hawkeyes, it was their third straight win to close out the regular season after losing a game at Penn State back on Nov. 5. During that stretch, Iowa gave up a combined total of 23 points.

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"It shows perseverance," senior defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson said. "When things got rough, we didn't hang our heads. We just kept moving forward. It also shows what we're all about here at Iowa."

NOTES: Iowa senior RB LeShun Daniels Jr. went over 1,000 yards rushing for the season, making him the first Hawkeyes running back to do so since Marcus Coker in 2011. Daniels and junior RB Akrum Wadley also became the first running back duo to each have more than 900 yards on the ground for Iowa since the 1984 season. ... As a result of Friday's defeat, Nebraska still needs a win now in its pending bowl game to ensure the Cornhuskers of their first 10-win season since 2012. Winning the bowl game would also give Nebraska its first season with less than four losses since 2003. ... Iowa finished the game converting three of its 13 third-down attempts. The Hawkeyes won last year's meeting in Lincoln despite not converting a single third down, going 0 of 9 in a 28-20 win over Nebraska.

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