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2011 Nov 28

NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Top Five Things We Saw Against Iowa

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By HuskerLocker

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By Erin Sorensen

It was another early game for Nebraska, as the Cornhuskers faced the Iowa Hawkeyes in the inaugural Heroes Game. Roughly 8,000 Iowa fans were in attendance as the new rivalry was born.

The Cornhuskers kicked the feud off exactly as they wanted to with a 20-7 win. There was a lot to pay attention to during the last game of the regular season. What did the fans in Memorial Stadium get to see?

1. “Bounce-Back Ability”

Nebraska needed this win. Having not lost consecutive games in 2011, Friday’s matchup was a big one for many reasons. Aside from being the start of a new day-after-Thanksgiving rivalry, it also pushed the Huskers' prestige high enough to be considered for some of the better non-BCS bowl games. The team showed their strength and remained focused, eliminating any major mistakes.

Losing to Michigan was tough, but the Wolverines have proved to be a strong team in the Big Ten. Michigan’s toppling of Ohio State was a telling sign of the damage that Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson can deal out. Regardless, the win over Iowa should be celebrated. It proved this team knows how to bounce back from a punch in the gut.

2. Defense, Defense, Defense

If anyone deserves a Blackshirt after this season, it is Lavonte David. Alongside Alfonzo Dennard, the two senior defensive players left their mark (or marks) on the Iowa offense. Throwing was a dangerous option for the Hawkeyes, as Dennard was blanketing Iowa’s best receiver in Marvin McNutt, and was ready to pick the ball off if given the chance. If Iowa had kept throwing at him, he likely would have snagged it at one point as he came close several times.

As for David, he made sure that running back Marcus Coker had one of his worst outings of the season. Considering that Iowa focused heavily on David in preparation for Friday’s game, it became immediately clear that no amount of planning would be able to make the Nebraska linebacker a non-factor. Needless to say, David’s NFL draft stock rose considerably last Friday. Dennard’s isn’t too far behind.

3. A Strong Run Game

Rex Burkhead was smiling on the sidelines on Friday, and with good reason. Not only did he break the single-game record for most carries with 38, but he also managed to take a seat and breathe more often. His numbers would lead one to think he was run ragged against the Hawkeyes, but he was repeatedly on the sidelines taking small breaks. During those times, some of the younger running backs got a chance to see the field.

Nebraska is sitting pretty when it comes to the run game. If the offensive line holds up their end of the deal, the running backs are as good as any you’ll find. Burkhead held his ground in the race for the best Big Ten running back and could very well be rewarded for his efforts. Fans already see a very promising future for the junior I-back. Imagine what he will be capable of in 2012.

4. Coach Competence

After a rollercoaster season, Friday was a big moment for Tim Beck. While there is still a lot of growing for the new offensive coordinator to do, Beck once again showed promise. Quarterback Taylor Martinez has shown solid growth over the 2011 season. Whether that can be credited to Beck or not is unknown at this point.

Many on Bo Pelini’s staff showed development as coaches this season. Beck has made his fair share of mistakes, but has also had moments of brilliance. Learning to be an offensive coordinator at the level he is at takes time, but 2012 looks promising. Under his direction, Martinez has become a more complete quarterback. Time can only help this situation improve.

5. A Win For The Seniors

During Wednesday’s practice, several seniors stood up and addressed the team in the football auditorium. They spoke about their final game at Nebraska and how it was important to walk off into the sunset as winners. Players that are known as team jokesters had tears in their eyes.

The Cornhuskers played their hearts out last Friday, from Rex Burkhead’s flip for a first down to Kenny Bell laying out for a reception. It was clear the seniors were on their minds and they wanted to send them out the right way: Holding the Heroes Game trophy.

While Nebraska won’t be playing for the Big Ten Championship, last Friday’s game helped soften that blow for fans and players alike. It became a pseudo-Big Ten Championship game, and fans saw a lot of promise for 2012. It is now up to the Huskers to take that momentum into the bowl game and win once more. Not just for the seniors, but for the future of the program.

Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
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Tags: taylor martinez, rex burkhead, alfonzo dennard, lavonte david, bo pelini, tim beck, marvin mcnutt, marcus coker, heroes game

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