LINCOLN — Nebraska's regular season ended in 2019 the exact same way it ended in 2018.
A last-second field goal by an Iowa kicker.
The Huskers battled back from down 24-10 at halftime to tie the game at 24 entering the fourth quarter. But Keith Duncan put in a 48-yard field goal with one second remaining to get the 27-24 victory.
NU couldn't score on the final kickoff.
Nebraska finishes the regular season 5-7, and barring the unlikeliest of odds, misses a bowl game for the third straight season. That hasn’t happened since the late 1950s.
In the fourth quarter, Nebraska’s defense stopped Iowa three times in its own territory and gave its offense a chance. Collin Miller stripped Mekhi Sargent and NU took over with 2:30 left near midfield, but NU couldn’t move the ball.
Iowa got the ball with 32 seconds left at their own 26. A 38-yard bomb from Nate Stanley to Nico Ragaini was overturned, but Stanley hit Smith-Marsette two plays later for 22 yards to put the ball at midfield, then completed a pass to Sam LaPorta for 22 yards to give Duncan a chance at a game-winning field goal.
He made it once, but Scott Frost took a timeout to negate it. Then Duncan made it again.
Adrian Martinez completed 10 of 18 passes for 50 yards with one pick. Noah Vedral played one series, completing one of his three passes for 11 yards. Freshman Luke McCaffrey played some at wide receiver and quarterback. His only throw went for 39 yards and a score. Dedrick Mills ran 24 times for 94 yards.
Stanley completed 11 of his 24 passes for 99 yards. Tyler Goodson ran for 116 yards and one score.
Iowa scored touchdowns from 55 yards, 45 yards and 95 yards to take a 14-point lead into halftime.
The Hawkeyes out-gained Nebraska 202 to 114 in the first half and kept Nebraska to just 3.2 yards per offensive play and 3.6 yards per carry. Iowa, meanwhile, ran for 8.6 yards per carry and 6.5 yards per play. Goodson ran for 109 yards on 10 carries in the first half. Ihmir Smith-Marsette had one carry for 45 yards and a score, and returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Stanley was 5 of 12 passing for 39 yards and one pick.
Both teams traded punts until Smith-Marsette took off on a reverse 45 yards down the sideline, so open and so fooling Nebraska’s defense he ran side by side with Stanley, who was the lead blocker. He dove into the end zone for 7-0 with 11:04 left.
A 27-yard punt gave NU the ball on the Iowa 37. After a 20-yard pass from Martinez to Kade Warner, NU couldn’t do much else. Matt Waldoch hit a 41-yard field goal, a career long for the former club soccer player, and it was 7-3.
On the second play of the next drive, Goodson bolted up the middle of a gaping hole, out-sprinting Nebraska defensive backs to the end zone for a 55-yard score.
The Hawkeyes had just one run play go for 40 or more yards entering the game, then rattled off two in the opening 10 minutes.
On another possession, Ben Stille, Darrion Daniels then JoJo Domann all got into the Iowa backfield for tackles for loss to force Iowa out of the red zone. Duncan barely sneaked in a career-long 49-yard field goal to take a 14-point lead.
After a stalled Nebraska drive of three plays and five total yards, Stanley gave NU a gift, throwing a ball that was nearly picked by JoJo Domann, but it bounced through his hands and ended up in the arms of Cam Taylor-Britt, who sprinted 38 yards the other way for a score to make it 17-10.
Iowa made it up quickly with a 95-yard kickoff return by Smith-Marsette to regain a 14-point lead. It’s just the fourth time in school history Nebraska has allowed two kickoff return touchdowns in a season. Wisconsin also returned one two weeks ago.
Nebraska got the ball back in the final three minutes and converted a third-and-8 on a pass from Martinez to Mills. He then threw a pick into double coverage.
Nebraska got the ball after halftime, and didn’t respond. Martinez was sacked for nine yards on third-and-14 by AJ Epenesa.
Iowa recorded one sack and seven tackles for loss on Friday. But the Hawkeyes couldn’t move the ball either.
The Nebraska offense finally unlocked a bit on a 39-yard pass from McCaffrey to JD Spielman to cut the lead to 24-17. It was McCaffrey’s first pass of the day. It was Nebraska’s longest.
A 15-yard penalty on Smith-Marsette turned a third-and-3 into a third-and-17. Khalil Davis wrapped up Mekhi Sargent on a screen pass and NU took back over with a chance to tie with 6:26 left.
Nebraska then did what they vowed they’d never do: they put together a long, grueling drive of 13 plays and 60 yards. The Huskers relied on Mills and Martinez on the ground. Martinez hit Warner for 11 yards on a crossing route on fourth-and-6. Three plays later, Wyatt Mazour ran up the middle for nine, and tied the game at 24 with 32 seconds left in the third quarter.
Nebraska out-gained Iowa 131-7 in the third quarter, ran 20 more offensive plays, averaged 4.7 yards per play and held the ball for 11:29.
Twice Iowa got into Nebraska territory, and twice Nebraska stood its ground. A 27-yard punt by Isaac armstrong gave Iowa the ball at the 44 with 12:36 left. Stille caught Stanley by the foot and stopped him short of the first down which forced an Iowa punt.
Later, on fourth-and-6 from the 34 with 4:39 left, Kirk Ferentz called a pooch punt which gave NU the ball at the 25.
On third-and-14, Martinez was gobbled up by Epenesa again and Iowa got another chance.
On first down, Sargent broke through and ran for 30 and put the ball on the Nebraska 33-yard line. The next play, Collin Miller stripped Sargent in the middle of a scrum, and Taylor-Britt fell on it to give NU the ball back at the 31 with 2:32 left.
An illegal block on Mike Williams turned a third-and-5 into a second-and-20. On third-and-19 with 45 seconds left, Frost elected to run to try for overtime, but Iowa took a timeout. Armstrong put the ball at the Iowa 26, the Hawkeyes taking over with 32 seconds left.
There, Stanley made magic and won Iowa's ninth game of the year.