Nebraska books spot in Big Ten title game
Iowa City, IA (Sports Network) - Alonzo Whaley picked off Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg late in a defensive battle, and the 17th-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers clinched a berth in the Big Ten championship game with a 13-7 victory over the Hawkeyes.
Down at halftime, Rex Burkhead put Nebraska (10-2, 7-1 Big Ten) ahead with a 3-yard touchdown in the third quarter. The Cornhuskers' defense did the rest of the work, smothering Vandenberg and the Iowa offense.
The Hawkeyes' defense did manage to limit Taylor Martinez to 63 yards on 8- of-14 passing and 41 yards on the ground.
Nebraska, which has won six in a row, edged Michigan for the Legends Division crown and will face Wisconsin in the conference title game Dec. 1 in Indianapolis.
"I don't know if we played our best, but we did what we had to do," Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said. "We're not done. We have one left."
Iowa (4-8, 2-6) ended its season on a six-game slide.
The Cornhuskers were far from conservative on their first possession of the second half. Trailing 7-3 and facing a 4th-and-1 from the Nebraska 44-yard line, Burkhead moved the chains with a 5-yard gain. The drive eventually stalled and Brett Maher drilled a 52-yard field goal.
Nebraska got the ball back off a Vandenberg interception, but Iowa's defense forced a three-and-out. But on their next touch, the Cornhuskers needed only four plays to grab the lead.
Starting from the Iowa 43, Ben Cotton made a 19-yard grab, Braylon Heard ran for 18 yards and Martinez preceded Burkhead's score with a short run.
The Cornhuskers prevented the Hawkeyes from crossing midfield over the final 18:10.
"We made some mistakes today," Iowa defensive tackle Steve Bigach said. "But we played hard, and I think that's important."
Nebraska started the game by orchestrating a 16-play drive that chewed up eight-plus minutes of the clock and ended with Maher connecting from 26 yards.
Iowa, though, responded on its first possession when Vandenberg capped a 12- play trek by scoring on a QB keeper.
The second quarter was highlighted by missed opportunities for the Hawkeyes. They recovered two fumbles, one on a punt and another by Martinez on an attempted handoff, but wound up turning the ball over downs and punting.
Iowa kicker Mike Meyer also missed a 42-yard try in the dying seconds of the first half.
Nebraska made its first trip to Kinnick Stadium in 13 years... The Cornhuskers have won six straight conference games in the same season for the first time since winning their first seven Big 12 games in 2001 ... Nebraska has won five straight in the series and held Iowa to fewer than 14 points in the last seven meetings ... The teams competed in the second annual Heroes Game, which began with Nebraska's move to the Big Ten ... Burkhead had 69 yards on 16 carries ... Mark Weisman ran the 29 times and totaled 91 yards for Iowa ... Vandenberg connected on 11-of-24 passes for 92 yards.
11/23 22:35:45 ET