It was never about style.
It was never easy.
It’s been all about resilience.
So here we are. Iowa has a 10-win regular season, a share — and perhaps more — of the Big Ten West Division title after Friday’s 28-21 win at Nebraska.
“We’re not the prettiest car in the lot,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “But we get from Point A to Point B pretty well.”
Of course, the Hawkeyes would like a Point C — the Big Ten championship game from Indianapolis, provided Minnesota somehow defeats Wisconsin on Saturday.
The regular season journey is over, and here we are wondering just how Iowa got here.
There was the climb to No. 2 in the national polls after the home win over Penn State, and then the tumble down the rankings after losses to Purdue and Wisconsin that eliminated whatever credit the Hawkeyes had built in the opening weeks of the season.
And then there was the four-game win streak to end the season. None of the victories were especially impressive, just four quarters of searching for solutions and then finding just the right combination.
Google Maps couldn’t come up with such weird directions.
That was this game — 2 ½ quarters of just-what-in-the-heck-is-going-on-here and then the final just-how-in-the-heck-did-they-win-this fury.
How the Hawkeyes won was a curious formula that defines this season.
Iowa was down 21-6 in the third quarter then got:
— A 36-yard field goal by Caleb Shudak.
— A blocked punt by Henry Marchese that was turned into a touchdown by Kyler Fisher.
— A safety on intentional grounding in the end zone.
— Another Shudak field goal, this one from 44 yards.
— A 2-yard quarterback sneak from Spencer Petras, who climbed back up the depth chart to start the second half after being held out of the last two games.
They were not unanswered points. Rather, Nebraska’s answer every time was, “Nope.”
The Huskers just Huskered, the imperfect conclusion to an ugly 3-9 season.
Nebraska coach Scott Frost deemed it “a death by paper cuts,” and the Hawkeyes knew where just to slice.
It’s how they’ve won all season. Defense and special teams have been opportunistic, the offense has been befuddling at times and yet adequate enough to win.
Every game has been a 60-minute scramble for answers — the redemption at times of mistakes made earlier.
Tyler Goodson lost the ball on a crucial drive to start the second half, leading to a 94-yard touchdown drive by the Huskers, the last shovel dig on that 21-6 hole. But it was Goodson who had 156 rushing yards, 55 on the second play of the game-winning drive.
Petras had been cast to the shadows with the emergence of Alex Padilla, who led Iowa to the first three wins of this final streak. But when Padilla struggled in the first half of this game, going 6-of-14 for 76 yards, Petras was called on in the second half. His 7-of-13-for-102-yards game was enough to manage the game, and when he bulled into the end zone on that quarterback sneak, it was like everything old was new again.
It’s a seven-game winning streak now over the Huskers. The Hawkeyes have always seemed to deliver gut punches, and this one hurt as much.
Now the Hawkeyes can only wait to see what happens next.
To get from Point A to Point B meant traveling a 12-game twisty road in which the Hawkeyes made it through every turn, although they scraped a few guardrails along the way. We’re still not sure how they got here, but they did.
Point C, whatever it may be, will no doubt require another trip on a bumpy highway.