Is Bo Pelini done? This is the game that Steve Pederson hoped Frank Solich would have at Colorado ten years ago. After Nebraska won last week, I thought to myself, if they lose to Iowa by two touchdowns, does Pelini keep his job? I thought so, although now I'd say Pelini's gone from 80% equity to 68%. And his personal foul plus his post-game tirade gave him the look of a coach melting down.
Whether Pelini stays or not may depend on if Shawn Eichorst's search firm tells him that Chris Petersen is willing to come to Lincoln. USC may give Ed Orgeron the Trojans' job permanently because there is no hot candidate, and if USC doesn't want to test the market, the pickings may not be better for Nebraska. For the record, I still feel optimistic if Nebraska presses reboot with a new coordinator (or two) and a new special teams coach. It may be too little too late, but it's worth it to give Pelini the benefit of the doubt, given Nebraska's lingering reputation from the Frank Solich-firing debacle.
But after Pelini's bad behavior, Nebraska will not take nearly the flack they did when Pederson fired Solich. Of course, that assumes the next guy is on his way to Lincoln, and when you hear his name, you say, They had to fire Pelini for him.
Iowa did not fear either Nebraska's run game. The Hawkeyes were able to game plan solely for Ron Kellogg III at quarterback, and thus didn't have to account for the quarterback as a runner. Most of the game, they played with their safeties back and were able to limit Nebraska in the passing game, while not compromising their run defense-integrity, a luxury against a run heavy team like Nebraska. Ameer Abdullah's longest run was 12 yards (?), and while Nebraska did get plays in the passing game, they were at a loss without an Abdullah game-changer. Abdullah himself took longer rests and needed help off the field multiple times, appearing as if he only had so many 100-yard games in the tank. Fans, don't blame him if he bolts to the NFL. He's given a lot to Nebraska, and if he doesn't want to get injured his senior year like Rex Burkhead did, you can't blame him
In short, Nebraska's injuries and inexperience on offense finally came back to bit them.
The faked punt was a panic move, and the only thing worse than the call was the execution. Yes, it was only a fourth-and-three. But at the time of the critical call, Iowa had only gained 205 yards on 42 plays, aided on their longest drive by 30 yards in penalties. Nebraska was only down by 7, and had already handed Iowa multiple short fields that had yielded them points. So there wasn't a reason to think that Iowa would just march down the field and make it a two-possession game. How about giving your players an out if Iowa had three backers standing up and guarding the first down marker? Why not try a reverse or a pass?
Nebraska is now zero-for-two on faked punts when they are down and don't think they have a shot.
Do things go different if Nebraska's first drive ends in a touchdown instead of an interception? My how bright the day looked when Taariq Allen caught the ball off an RK3 scramble and scooted 32 yards to the Iowa 17, only to have the gain erased for illegal touching. The Allen penalty set Nebraska on a bad foot, and seemed to be the point where they started to fall apart. Ironically, Nebraska's longest play off the day remained their first offensive play from scrimmage, Kenny Bell's 25 yard reception on a flea-flicker.
Random Stat Bag: It's been nine years since Nebraska last lost on Senior Day, to Colorado in 2004. For the first time since only 2007, Nebraska has lost two home games by more than twenty points, and three home games by more than ten points. For the first time under Pelini, Nebraska has lost three home games in one year. Bo Pelini has also lost for the first time in Nebraska's final game of the regular season (5-0 prior). 23, 20, 17, 28, 16, 17-those are Nebraska's offensive point totals in its last six games this year. In their three Big Ten games, Iowa as held Nebraska to 20, 13, and 17 points respectively, and 385, 263, and 288 yards respectively.
Vincent Valentine and Michael Rose should have bright futures. Among the few positives from today's game were Rose's nose for the ball and the amount of time that Valentine spent on the other side of the line. Along with the other young players who fans were introduced to this year, the Blackshirts have time to grow.
The turnovers started to kill Huskers' spirit this time around. You could see it in the way Kellogg just stood and watched the scene after Abdullah's fourth quarter fumble, and when the coaches had to urge Kellogg and his offensive mates to stay on the field to go for a fourth down deep in their own territory late in the game. Even before that, Kellogg and company appeared afraid to make a mistake when they faced back-to-back drives from inside their own five in the second quarter.
Yes, Nebraska has had great character to over come mistakes, but this time around, it look like they realized how much harder they had to work to overcome their mistakes. If Pelini does end up losing the Nebraska football program, this is going to be the starting point.
Derek Johnson is a Seward, Nebraska native who works for his family's organic farm seed company, Blue River Hybrids, and is a freelance writer and commission photographer. He has been a contributor to Husker Max since 2013, and is a former contributor to the website Husker Locker. Visit his blog, derekjohnsonmuses.com, and follow him on Twitter @derekjohnson05.