Nebraska travels to Iowa City Friday

Syracuse Journal-Democrat





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Record: 1-3, 1-3 Big Ten

Last Game: vs. Illinois (L, 41-23)

Rankings: NR

Coach: Scott Frost

Career/NU Record: 29-25 (5th Year)/10-18 (3rd Year)

vs. Iowa: 0-2


Record: 3-2, 3-2 Big Ten Last Game: at Penn State (W, 41-21)

Rankings: AP-RV

Coach: Kirk Ferentz

Career/ILL Record: 177-127 (25th Year)/165-106 (22nd Year)

vs. Nebraska: 6-5


All-Time Series: Nebraska leads, 29-18-3

As Big Ten Foes: Iowa leads, 6-3

In Iowa City: Nebraska leads, 10-8

Last Game: Iowa 27-24 (11/29/19)

Win Streak: Iowa, 5 games

The Matchup

Nebraska plays its traditional Black Friday game at Iowa City, taking on the Hawkeyes in a Big Ten West Division battle.

The matchup of border rivals will kick off at noon Central Time, with television coverage on Fox. Nebraska has played on Black Friday each year since 1990, spanning three conferences and three opponents.

The Huskers were originally scheduled to host Minnesota on Black Friday in 2020, but the revised schedule released in September returned the Huskers to their regular Friday after Thanksgiving appointment with the Hawkeyes.

Nebraska comes into the game at 1-3 on the season, following a home setback against Illinois.

The Huskers turned the ball over on their opening play from scrimmage and committed five turnovers in the loss.

Nebraska continued to show a strong running attack against the Illini, rushing for 215 yards in the contest.

Iowa comes into Friday's game with a 3-2 record and riding a three-game winning streak.

The Hawkeyes opened the season with close losses to Purdue and Northwestern, but have been dominant over the past three weeks, defeating Michigan State, Minnesota and Penn State, with two of those wins on the road.

The Hawkeyes again feature one of the Big Ten’s stingiest defenses, allowing just 319.8 yards and 16.0 points per game. In its three-game winning streak, Iowa has limited the opposition to just 11.7 points per game. The Hawkeyes rank in the top 20 nationally in rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense and scoring defense.

Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz is in his 22nd season with the Hawkeyes, making him the longest-tenured head coach in the FBS ranks. Series History: Nebraska vs. Iowa Nebraska leads the all-time series with Iowa 29-18-3, but the Hawkeyes have won six of the nine meetings as Big Ten Conference foes, including five straight.

Before Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011, the teams met 41 times as non-conference opponents, including 14 games between 1930 and 1946.

Nebraska and Iowa also met four straight years from 1979 to 1982, and the final matchups as non-conference opponents were in 1999 and 2000.

This year’s meeting will mark the 10th straight year that Nebraska and Iowa will meet on the day after Thanksgiving.

The teams were originally not scheduled to play on Black Friday this season, but were paired together on their traditional day when the Big Ten announced its eight-game conference-only schedule.

The programs will take a break from the Black Friday matchup in 2021, before resuming their post-Thanksgiving matchup in 2022.

Nebraska had an eight-game win streak in the series and a pair of five-game win streaks. Iowa’s current five-game win streak is its longest in the series.

Each of the past two meetings have been decided by a game-winning kick in the final seconds.

In the last meeting at Kinnick Stadium in 2018, the Huskers erased a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit and tied the game with 3:22 remaining before Iowa drove into position for a Miguel Recinos game-winning, walk-off 41-yard field goal.

Last year, Nebraska rallied from a 14-point third-quarter deficit to tie the game before Keith Duncan made a 48-yard field goal with one second remaining to lift Iowa to a 27-24 victory.

Teams to Compete for Heroes Trophy

Nebraska and Iowa will battle for the Heroes Trophy when they hit the field Friday at Kinnick Stadium. The Heroes Game is the annual trophy game between Nebraska and Iowa.

While both teams aim to win the trophy on the field, both Nebraska and Iowa wished to make their annual meeting about more than just winning a football game.

With that in mind, the schools partnered together to not only create a trophy, but to use a national stage to honor a citizen hero from each state.

In addition to the trophy that will be claimed by the winner of the game, both an Iowa and Nebraska native will be honored for extraordinary acts.

Those individuals will be announced later this week.

Nebraska Continues Thanksgiving  Friday Tradition

Nebraska will continue its long-standing tradition of playing on the day after Thanksgiving.

This Friday’s game with Iowa will mark the 31st consecutive season the Huskers have played on Thanksgiving Friday.

Nebraska met Oklahoma in the final six seasons of the Big Eight Conference (1990 to 1995), then played Colorado in all 15 of the Huskers' Big 12 Conference years (1996 to 2010), before taking on Iowa each of the 10 seasons it has been a Big Ten member, including this year.

Nebraska is 9-5 on the road in Black Friday games since 1990, including 2-2 against the Hawkeyes. In addition to the past nine years, Nebraska and Iowa also closed the regular season against each other nine times from 1892 to 1916.

Frost Offense Traditionally Impressive on Opening Drives

One common theme of a Scott Frost-led offense has been a fast start. That trend has continued in 2020.

The Huskers have scored on the opening drive of the game twice in four games.

At No. 5 Ohio State, Nebraska opened the game with a four-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in just 1:51.

The Huskers opened the Penn State game with an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to take a 7-0 lead.

In Frost's three seasons, Nebraska has scored on its opening possession 13 times in 28 games (12 TD, 1 FG).

Nebraska scored on its first possession seven times in 12 games in 2018, including six of the final seven games.

All seven of NU's opening scoring drives resulted in touchdowns.

In 2019, the Huskers scored points on their opening drive four times in 12 games, including three touchdowns.

Over the last four seasons - 2018-20 at Nebraska and 2017 at UCF - Frost's offenses have scored a touchdown on their opening possession 21 times in 41 games (51 percent).

The average length of the touchdown drive in that span is 74 yards.

In five years as a head coach, Frost's offenses have scored on their opening drive 26 times in 54 games, with 24 touchdowns and two field goals.

In 94 games over eight seasons as a play-caller, Frost's offenses have scored on their first possession of the game 47 times, putting points on the board in half of their opening possessions.

Nebraska has received the opening kickoff and scored a touchdown 10 times in 28 games under Frost.

In 2018, the Huskers had a game-opening TD drive to take a 7-0 lead in five straight Big Ten games.

Frost's Opening Drive Scoring Percentage: 50 percent (47 of 94 drives)

Frost's Opening Drive Touchdown Percentage: 44 percent (41 of 94 drives)

Quarterbacks Provide Running Threat

Nebraska quarterbacks Adrian Martinez and Luke McCaffrey have each guided the Husker offense to success in 2020. A big part of that success has been the running ability of the quarterback tandem. Nebraska ranks fourth in the Big Ten and 36th nationally in rushing offense, averaging 198.8 yards per game. McCaffrey (318 yards) and Martinez (195 yards) have combined for 513 of Nebraska's 795 rushing yards this season (128.3 ypg).

Either McCaffrey (Ohio State, Penn State, Illinois) or Martinez (Northwestern) has led Nebraska in rushing in every game this season.

In his first career start against Penn State, McCaffrey rushed 13 times for a team-high 67 yards and a touchdown. He rushed 26 times for 122 yards and two touchdowns against Illinois, posting his first career 100-yard rushing game.

Against Northwestern, Martinez posted his fourth career 100-yard rushing game with 13 carries for 102 yards.

Excluding sacks, the two Husker quarterbacks have combined for 537 rushing yards on 76 attempts, an average of 7.1 yards per carry.

According to, both of the quarterbacks rank among the nation's leaders in yards per rush by a quarterback. Among quarterbacks with a minimum of 15 carries in 2020, Martinez is second nationally at 6.96 yards per carry (23rd among all players), while McCaffrey ranks sixth among quarterbacks at 5.88 yards per attempt (69th among all players).

McCaffrey Among Nation’s Top Freshman

McCaffrey has shown the ability to lead the Husker offense as a redshirt freshman, after seeing just limited action at the position in 2019. McCaffrey made his first two career starts against Penn State and Illinois. In his two starts, McCaffrey has accounted for an average of 237.5 yards of total offense.

McCaffrey ranks as Nebraska's leading rusher (317 yards) and passer (434 yards) through four games.

McCaffrey is one of only 10 quarterbacks in the country to lead his team in rushing.

McCaffrey averages 79.5 rushing yards per game. That total ranks fourth nationally among all quarterbacks and fourth among all freshmen, regardless of position.

McCaffrey is the only freshman quarterback in the country currently leading his team in rushing.

In the win over Penn State, McCaffrey became the first Husker quarterback to win his first career start since Tommy Armstrong Jr. won his first start as a redshirt freshman against South Dakota State in 2013.

McCaffrey was the first Nebraska quarterback to defeat a conference opponent in his first career start since true freshman Cody Green led Nebraska to a 20-10 win at Baylor in 2009.

Nebraska Linebacking Corps a Mix of Veterans, Youth

Nebraska replaced one starting inside and outside linebacker, but the Huskers have ample experience at the second level of the defense. Overall, NU has a youth movement at linebacker, as 22 of the 29 linebackers on the Husker roster are either freshmen or sophomores.

Outside linebackers JoJo Domann and Caleb Tannor split time as starters in 2019, and Domann had nine TFLs, the most of any returning Husker. Domann and Tannor are two of only four upperclassmen among NU's 14 outside linebackers, while sophomore Garrett Nelson has made his first three career starts this season. Domann leads the Huskers in 2020 with 31 tackles and a team-high five tackles for loss.

Seniors Will Honas and Collin Miller split time at inside linebacker in 2019, and are the veterans in a three-man linebacker rotation. Despite missing a game, Honas ranks second on the team in 2020 with 30 tackles, including a team-high three sacks. Miller is fourth on the team with 27 tackles.

Honas and Miller are two of the three upperclassmen among Nebraska's inside linebacker group, along with first-year junior college transfer Eteva Mauga-Clements. All other inside linebackers are either freshmen or sophomores.

The linebackers have been arguably Nebraska's most improved group in 2020. The Huskers' regular group of outside and inside linebacker have combined for six sacks and 15 tackles for loss.