Nebraska ran off 17 unanswered points in the second half to earn a 24-21 win at Iowa on Sept. 22, 1979 in This Week in Husker History. The game was the first time in 33 years that the Huskers took on the Hawkeyes, and the first of four matchups between Hall of Fame coaches Tom Osborne and Hayden Fry, who was in his first year as the Hawkeyes’ head coach.
Iowa struck quickly to build its 21-7 lead after a fumble by NU quarterback Tim Hager gave the Hawkeyes the ball at the Husker 47. It took Iowa just two plays to cover those 47 yards, as it scored with a 29-yard touchdown from Pete Gales to Keith Chappelle with 5:21 remaining in the third quarter to give Iowa a 14-point lead.
But on the following drive, the No. 6 Huskers responded with an eight play, 61-yard scoring march with all 61 yards covered on the ground to cut the Hawkeyes’ lead in half. Jarvis Redwine carried five times for 49 yards including runs of 18 and 20 yards on the drive, while Hager redeemed himself for his prior mistake by covering the last nine yards on the drive on two carries, capped by a four-yard touchdown run to bring the Huskers within seven with 2:02 left to go in the third quarter.
After an Iowa three-and-out, Nebraska took over the ball on its own 49 and again mounted a scoring march that again relied on the powerful Husker rushing attack. Backup I-back Craig Johnson got Nebraska rolling with carries on four of the first five plays to move NU to the Iowa 31, then Redwine rushed three straight times to the Hawkeye 14, where Iowa made a crucial mistake. On 3rd-and-5, the Hawkeyes were flagged for being offsides, giving the Huskers 1st-and-goal at the nine-yard line. Johnson ran twice and capped the scoring march with a five-yard touchdown run. The Dean Sukup PAT tied the game at 21 with 11:02 remaining.
After a 24-yard pass from Gales to Nate Person seemed to get Iowa on the right track, the Blackshirts stepped up and forced a fumble two plays later. Derrie Nelson recovered it at the NU 42, giving the Huskers the ball with 9:49 left in the game.
The Huskers started the go-ahead drive with just their third pass attempt of the half and their own completion, an 11-yard completion from Hager to All-America tight end Junior Miller. With a 15-yard personal foul penalty by Iowa tacked on, Nebraska had the ball at the Hawkeye 31. The Huskers would pick up just one more first down before the drive sputtered at the Iowa 13. Sukup connected on a 30-yard field goal to give Nebraska a 24-21 lead with 5:52 to go in the game.
The Nebraska defense earned back-to-back three-and-outs to close the game and give the Huskers the win, their third of 1979. Redwine ran 12 times for 89 yards to pace the NU offense, while Kerry Weinmaster led the Blackshirts with 10 tackles, including three tackles for loss.
Nebraska would go onto to win its first 10 games of 1979, rising as high as No. 2 in the polls before closing the season with back-to-back losses at No. 8 Oklahoma and against No. 8 Houston in the Cotton Bowl. Iowa finished 5-6 in its first season with Fry at the helm. The Huskers and Hawkeyes played four straight times from 1979 to 1982, with Nebraska winning three of the matchups.
In addition to this game, Sept. 22 is a significant day in Husker history as Bob Devaney made his head coaching debut at Nebraska on Sept. 22, 1962 with a rousing 53-0 win over South Dakota at Memorial Stadium. All time, the Huskers are 6-0 on Sept. 22.