Four Down Territory: Hawkeyes and Cornhuskers

Four things the Iowa and Nebraska soccer teams can do to position themselves for success for Friday’s 3:00 p.m. game at Kinnick Stadium.

Nebraska (3-8, 2-6)

1. Establish the passport

Nebraska’s offense has been reasonably balanced this season, averaging 345.5 yards, including 129.9 rushing yards per game to supplement their 215.6 passing yards per game. Quarterback Casey Thompson, a transfer from Texas, has surpassed 300 yards three times while throwing for 2,129 yards and 14 touchdowns. LSU transfer Trey Palmer was his primary target. The junior has 62 receptions for 878 yards and seven touchdowns. The Cornhuskers will need a big game through the air to end Iowa’s seven-year winning streak in the series.

2. Start fast

A quick starter this season, the Cornhuskers have had touchdowns on their first possession five times this season, including in four of their last five games. That didn’t happen against Wisconsin last week, but Nebraska opened up a 14-3 lead before the Badgers rallied to give the Cornhuskers their fifth straight 15-14 loss.

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3. Defend yourself

The Cornhuskers’ defense has shown a pulse in the second half of the season, which wasn’t the case early on. In the last six games, Nebraska has conceded 136.4 fewer yards than in the first five games of the season. The Cornhuskers conceded 35.5 points in their first four games but have since conceded a 24.6 point average. Linebacker Luke Reimer continues to lead the Nebraska defense. He has 86 tackles on the season and comes into the game in Iowa, where he needs 14 to become the first husker to have back-to-back 100 tackle seasons since Lavonte David in 2010-11.

4. Play like there’s no tomorrow

Aside from the Heroes Trophy, Nebraska has little at stake in their season finale. It will be the last game Mickey Joseph will serve as the Cornhuskers’ interim coach, a role he filled after Scott Frost was fired on Sept. 11, a day after a 45-42 loss to Georgia Southern. A Nebraska quarterback from 1987 to 1991, Joseph was serving as Nebraska’s passing game coordinator and receivers coach during his freshman season when Frost was fired.

Iowa (7-4, 5-3)

1. Craft the barrel

Iowa struggled on the ground in Minnesota, rushing for 59 yards on 28 carries. The Hawkeyes’ Kaleb Johnson passed Tyler Goodson for the top spot on Iowa’s all-time Newman rushing chart. Johnson has 653 rushing yards as a team leader and has led the Hawkeyes in rushing five times this season. The Hamilton, Ohio native has had five touchdowns this season, the most ever by an Iowa freshman.

2. Back to the form

Iowa’s defense wasn’t even against Minnesota last week. The Hawkeyes held the Golden Gophers on 10 points — the eighth time in 11 games Iowa has given up 10 points or fewer — but Minnesota’s 312 rushing yards was the first time since Wisconsin rallied 300 yards on the ground in 2019 that an opponent had 300 yards crashed into the Hawkeyes. Iowa has averaged 108.9 rushing yards per game this season and kept seven opponents under 100 yards.

3. Customize

The Iowa offense will need to make some adjustments this week as it starts with tight end and hosts leading Sam LaPorta, and starting fullback and key blocker Monte Pottebaum is expected to sit out with leg injuries he sustained in the Minnesota game. LaPorta is Iowa’s receiving leader with 53 catches for 601 yards. Sophomore Luke Lachey, who is tied for the team’s lead at receptions with 18 catches, is likely to open in LaPorta’s absence, while senior Turner Pallissard is likely to take over at full-back. Newcomer Addison Ostrenga is now the tight end of the second team and redshirt newcomer Eli Miller will back Pallissard.

4. Seize the moment

Iowa can win the Big Ten West Division title by beating Nebraska. Unlike a year ago, when the Hawkeyes clinched their Major League title since 2015 after Minnesota defeated Wisconsin with a 28-21 win in Nebraska a day after Iowa closed the regular season, Iowa currently controls its own destiny . With a win, Iowa will return to Indianapolis next week and play in the Big Ten title game. A loss can earn Purdue that spot if they beat Indiana on Saturday. Illinois, who visit Northwestern on Saturday, can still progress but need a win and losses from both the Hawkeyes and Boilermakers to reach the title game.