Iowa flails to finish with 13-7 loss to Nebraska

LUKE MEREDITH AP Sports Writer Published:

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) -- Iowa closed out a miserably disappointing season by dropping yet another close game at home.

None of that matters anymore.

The Hawkeyes have nine months to figure out what went wrong in 2012 and try to make sure it doesn't happen again in 2013.

Rex Burkhead scored the go-ahead touchdown in his return from a knee injury and No. 17 Nebraska beat Iowa 13-7 on Friday to secure a spot in the Big Ten title game. The Huskers (10-2, 7-1 Big Ten) will face off against Wisconsin next Saturday in Indianapolis.

The Huskers, who finished a whopping five games ahead of their new border rivals in the Big Ten, held the Hawkeyes (4-8, 2-6) scoreless in the final three quarters in windy conditions.

Mark Weisman had 91 yards rushing for Iowa, which finished the season on a six-game losing streak. The Hawkeyes will miss out on a bowl game for just the second time since 2000.

"Four-and-eight, not much joy there. You've got to go back to 2000 to be in that situation. So that's not much fun," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.

Nebraska's offense spent much of the day stifled by a stiff wind that gusted upwards to 40 mph and a surprisingly stout Iowa defense.

Fittingly, quarterback Taylor Martinez and Burkhead teamed up to put the Huskers ahead.

Martinez beat quadruple coverage for an 18-yard completion to Braylon Heard, an impressive hookup considering the conditions. Burkhead, playing for the first time in a month after aggravating a knee injury, was in the end zone a few plays later to make it 13-7 with 3:10 left in the third quarter.

"He's really a dynamic player. He just changes the tempo of things out there a little bit. That's what good players do," Ferentz said about Burkhead.

Iowa pinned Nebraska at the 1 with 12:03 left, but Burkhead willed the Huskers out of harm's way with runs of 9 and 8 yards into the wind.

Though the Huskers were later forced to punt, Burkhead helped them avoid the worst while burning valuable minutes off the clock.

Burkhead finished with 69 yards rushing -- all in the second half.

"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," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. "I don't know if we played our best. But we did what we had to do."

A mild fall in the Midwest came to an abrupt end on Friday.

During the national anthem, the breeze at Kinnick Stadium was so strong it nearly blew over the American flag -- and the man holding it. The wind chill hovered in the teens all day.

The conditions made passing a risky venture. Martinez threw for just 63 yards, while Iowa's James Vandenberg had 92 yards passing and two picks.

Nebraska threw just once on a 16-play drive that led to a field goal, and Iowa did the same on a 62-yard drive that led to a 1-yard plunge from Vandenberg and a 7-3 lead it held at halftime.

The Huskers muffed a punt and Martinez fumbled and nearly threw a pick in the second quarter. But Iowa's offense, which was lackluster all season, couldn't turn those miscues into points.

The year-long ineptitude of Iowa's offense reached its nadir late in the first half. They were penalized for having too many men on the field -- even though they were coming out of a timeout -- and Mike Meyer followed with a missed field goal.

Ferentz defended revamped coaching staff, including embattled offensive coordinator Greg Davis, after being asked about the state of his program after the game.

"Yeah, I'm comfortable with everything right now. With that being said, I need to take some time and look at everything, starting with my performance, going right down to the bottom. We'll do that like we do every year. We have good coaches, good people," Ferentz said. "There were a lot of things that went into being 4-8 this year."

With one more Big Ten win next weekend, Nebraska is headed to the Rose Bowl.

The Hawkeyes are nowhere near a date in Pasadena, and they'll spend the next few weeks trying to figure out why it all went so wrong in 2012.

"Our expectations are certainly to go to bowls every year, but realize they're never automatic. This year is certainly evidence of that. That's behind us now," Ferentz said. "Now we go back to work and see what we can do about moving forward in a positive way."

___

Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP