Nebraska’s rivalry week football game against the Iowa Hawkeyes will mark the 49th time these two teams have met, and only the 8th time they’ve squared off since Nebraska joined the Big Ten.
While times have changed immensely, the history between Nebraska and Iowa is long and unique.
The first time these two teams met, college football was just a little different. Nebraska’s football team was only in its second year of existence, and the team was called the Nebraska Old Gold Knights. Nebraska finished with a 2-2 record, and three of its four games were played against Doane University.
In the other game, Nebraska hosted the Iowa Hawkeyes on Thanksgiving Day, which would go down as the first game Iowa ever played outside of its home state. Nebraska did not have a head coach at the time, so Theron Lyman, a player-coach at Iowa College, assisted Nebraska to try and make the game more competitive. This attempt failed, as the Hawkeyes shut out Nebraska 22-0.
Despite playing nine more times before the 1900s began, the rivalry somewhat slowed down as college football expanded. After 1946, Nebraska and Iowa did not meet for 33 years. Since they were in separate conferences and more and more college football teams began to show up, the Cornhuskers and Hawkeyes only met six times between 1947 and 2010.
In 2011, the rivalry was reignited. Nebraska moved from the Big 12 to the Big Ten. That year marked the first official Heroes Game, which is now the official name of the rivalry game between Nebraska and Iowa. In their first meeting since 2000, the Huskers took care of business, easily grabbing a 20-7 win. Rex Burkhead, who now plays for the New England Patriots, rushed for 160 yards and a touchdown in the game.
Next year the game was much closer, as the Huskers were only able to squeak out a 13-7 win. Rex Burkhead starred yet again, rushing for 69 yards and scoring the go-ahead touchdown with just over three minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Iowa got their first win of the series and first win against Nebraska since 1981 in 2013, blowing out the Huskers 38-17. Jake Rudock, who would go on to play at Michigan and is now on the Detroit Lions, threw two touchdowns while RB Mark Weisman added two more on the ground.
The 2014 game was the closest game played between the two teams since 2011, as Nebraska needed overtime to take home a 37-34 win. After Iowa was able to hit a field goal on the first overtime possession, Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. hit receiver Kenny Bell on the sideline for a touchdown to end the game.
Iowa has gone on to win the last three matchups, including a 30-point win in 2016 and a 42-point win in 2017.
Nebraska holds a 29-16-3 series lead all time, but has only gone 3-4 against Iowa since joining the Big Ten.
While Kirk Ferentz has been the Iowa coach since 1999, Nebraska has had 3 different coaches since the first time the teams competed for the Heroes Trophy. Bo Pelini was 3-1 against Iowa, but he was fired at the end of the 2014 season. Mike Riley then took over, but could never find success against the Hawkeyes, losing all three of his matchups against them.
With Scott Frost now at the helm, he will look to bring back the Husker’s success against Iowa in his first game against the Hawkeyes.
Nebraska-Iowa is likely to be a heated rivalry for years to come, and the next chapter will be written this Black Friday.