Keith Duncan sighed when he thought about it.
The Iowa kicker, who blew a kiss goodbye toward the Nebraska sideline after kicking the game-winning field goal last year, started hearing the Huskers talk during the warmups before Friday’s game at Kinnick Stadium.
“They like talking a little bit. I think they’re too worried about growing their mustaches than playing football,” Duncan quipped, referring to a report earlier in the week that the Huskers were adding some facial hair before heading to Iowa City.
Duncan, of course, wasn’t done — he does enjoy getting in the last words.
“That’s the difference between Iowa and Nebraska,” he said. “We’re focused on playing football, we’re focused on playing the right way. That’s what they do in pre-game. They’re talking. But I wouldn’t want it any other way.
“That means they’re worried about you.”
Iowa’s 26-20 win on Friday was the Hawkeyes’ sixth consecutive in a series where one neighbor just tolerates the other, and then goes out and wins the game.
“Nebraska treats this game very special for them,” said Duncan, who had four field goals. “We knew if we played Iowa football, we were going to win. We weren’t worried about what they were going to do. We were worried about what we were going to do.”
“We don't tend to really look at things in the big picture,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It's week-to-week, then year-to-year. Happy, just happy. It's not easy. Any conference opponent... It's hard to win conference games just in a nutshell.
“If you can get a streak going, that's great. That wasn't first and foremost on our thoughts today. We knew we had a big challenge on our hands. Just glad we were able to get the job done today.”
Still, the Huskers found a way to agitate Ferentz, complaining to the officiating crew that clapping from the Iowa sideline forced some errant Nebraska snaps.
“Please,” Ferentz said, clearly irked after he spoke with the officials after halftime.
“I've never heard of that,” Ferentz said. “Never heard of that. If a player was on the field doing it, I get that. But what are we talking about? The next thing you know we're going to be treating this like golf. I was going to say tennis, but they do that at tennis. At golf, nobody is able to say anything, right?”
He, too, wasn’t done.
“We should just go home right now,” Ferentz said. “What are we talking about? It's football, right? It's football. Are they okay with how I dressed today? Should I be changing my pants, different shirt? What are we talking about?”
Last year’s game ended with a kiss. This one ended with a big hit on the Huskers’ final series, when Iowa’s Chauncey Golston plowed into Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez and knocked the ball loose. Zach VanValkenburg recovered, and Iowa was able to kneel out the clock.
Iowa’s defense held the Huskers scoreless over the final 27:05 after they had taken a 20-13 lead.
Nebraska had an 8-play, 70-yard drive to open the second half, scoring on Martinez’s 1-yard dive, but Iowa came back with a punishing 14-play, 66-yard possession that ended on Mekhi Sargent’s 2-yard touchdown run.
“We were pounding the ball,” tackle Jack Plumb said. “It’s tough Iowa football.”
Iowa had 129 rushing yards, 94 in the second half.
“We wanted to run the ball in the first half. We had a hard time,” Ferentz said. “Give our opponents credit there. They threw a couple wrinkles at us that we were not playing very cohesively. As a result, I don't know how many yards we had at halftime rushing, but it wasn't very impressive. Even in the second half, it wasn't always pretty, wasn't always smooth.
“I thought the staff made some good adjustments, made some good tweaks. We went out and played a little bit more effectively and ran the ball a little bit more efficiently in that second half for sure.”
“It’s always important for us to establish the run,” said running back Tyler Goodson, who had 30 carries for 111 yards.
Goodson appreciated the workload.
“I’m OK with it,” he said.
Duncan’s 48-yard field goal five seconds into the fourth quarter gave Iowa a 23-20 lead, then he added a 37-yarder 4 ½ minutes later for the final margin.
His 51-yarder late in the fourth quarter was short, giving the Huskers a chance for the win that was snuffed out by the defense.
It was the Hawkeyes’ final word.
Just life among neighbors.
“It’s football. It’s Iowa vs. Nebraska,” Duncan said. “It’s expected.”
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