LINCOLN, Neb. – Nebraska’s Rex Burkhead hurt so good after running over and around Iowa.
Burkhead started the week with his right foot in a walking boot and finished it by running for 160 yards and a touchdown on a school-record 38 carries in No. 22 Nebraska’s 20-7 victory Friday.
“A little sore – definitely a little sore,” Burkhead said afterward. “It feels good. It was a great win. To see the seniors go out in that fashion, that’s the best thing.”
Burkhead pounded away at Iowa’s defense 4 or 5 yards at a time and looked like his old self after being held to a season-low 36 yards in last week’s loss at Michigan.
After quarterback Taylor Martinez tweaked his left ankle on a first-quarter run, offensive coordinator Tim Beck told Burkhead that he would be the main man.
“Whatever Coach Beck wanted to do, whatever the team needed to do – pound the rock and throw passes when we needed to,” Burkhead said.
The win kept alive Nebraska’s hopes of landing a berth in the Capital One Bowl, if two Big Ten teams are invited to BCS games, or the Outback Bowl.
Nebraska (9-3, 5-3) has nine or more wins in each of coach Bo Pelini’s four seasons and for the 38th time in 42 seasons.
“Every now and then you guys might be a little critical of us,” safety Austin Cassidy told reporters, “but nine wins, that’s a dang-good season no matter how you cut it. It’s tough to come in week in and week out and bring it every week. We wanted to win the Big Ten. We want to win every game. When we’re old and reflecting on the season, nine wins is something we’re going to be proud of.”
Iowa (7-5, 4-4) could slip to the Meineke Car Care Bowl or TicketCity Bowl.
Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz said Nebraska never allowed his team to establish an offensive rhythm.
“They played a game you would script out if you were them,” he said. “We weren’t up to the challenge today.”
With Nebraska having joined the Big Ten this year, Friday’s game was long touted as the start of a natural rivalry. Iowa is Nebraska’s closest Big Ten opponent, and the farm states split by the Missouri River share a passion for football.
The universities further billed it as the inaugural “Heroes Game” and honored “citizen heroes” from each state at halftime.
What happened on the field bore little resemblance to those big Thanksgiving week games Nebraska used to play against Oklahoma and even a few against Colorado.
The Huskers were in full control all afternoon, with Burkhead helping the Huskers to a 16-minute advantage in time of possession.
“I don’t think fatigue was a factor,” Iowa linebacker James Morris said. “There were times we were able to get off the field.”