No. 14 Nebraska traveled to Iowa City with a lot on the line and thanks to a stingy defense and an opportunistic offense they came out of Kinnick with their first ever birth in the Big Ten Championship game thanks to a narrow 13-7 win in the 2nd annual Heroes Game.
"Well, that was hard," said Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini following the game. "We knew it was going to be that way. We knew it was going to be hard. We told our team that. With everything Iowa had going on with it being their senior day and the whole deal. And those were tough conditions out there. I don't know if we played our best, but we did what we had to do."
Down 7-3 at the half the Huskers came out aggressive in the 2nd half on the defensive side of the football and used that units play to propel them to victory. Iowa could only manage 200 yards of total offense on the day, including just 92 yards through the air.
With the score 7-3 out of the half the Huskers tightened things up at 7-6 on a mammoth 52 yard field goal with 9:30 left in the 3rd quarter. Then it was time for an unlikely hero to emerge for the Huskers, unlikely because it was one Rex Burkhead, who hadn't seen the field in nearly four weeks of play.
Nebraska took over on their own 43 yard line with 4:45 left in the 3rd quarter and looking to gain their first lead of the game. Martinez hooked up with tight end Ben Cotton for a 19 yard gain on 1st down, which was followed up by a Braylon Heard 18 yard scamper to put the Huskers at the Hawkeyes 3 yard line. Following a Martinez no-gainer Burkhead went off left tackle for the 3 yard TD and a 13-6 lead with 3:10 left in the 3rd quarter.
From there the Huskers defense took over the game completely, allowing just one first down the rest of the way and picked off Vandenberg on the Hawkeyes final possession of the game.
Despite the 10 win regular season the Huskers can't be happy with the performance their offense put out against one of the worst defenses in the Big Ten. Taylor Martinez went 8-14 for just 63 yards and the team managed just 263 yards of total offense. They also went just 4-14 on 3rd downs in the game and coughed up two fumbles in the victory. Those numbers won't get it done against a Wisconsin team that ranks 4th in scoring offense in Big Ten play.
It's the 5th 10 win season under Bo Pelini and the Huskers will now go on to face Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game on Dec. 1st.
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