Even after a 3-4 start to the season that included an embarrassing 54-10 loss at No. 2 Ohio State, Iowa rallied by winning four straight to position itself in control-its-own destiny mode in the Big Ten West. Beat Nebraska in the regular season finale and the Hawkeyes were back off to Indianapolis for a return trip to the Big Ten Championship game.
There was every reason to believe that would happen, too. The Hawkeyes were favored by multiple scores and had won seven straight over the Huskers. Unfortunately, there were signs very early that things just simply weren't going to go according to plan.
First off, Iowa started the day off minus star tight end Sam LaPorta and fullback Monte Pottebaum. Then, star Hawkeyes defensive back and punt returner Cooper DeJean went down on the game's first defensive series.
Nebraska took advantage of that, picking on his replacement for three Casey Thompson touchdown passes. The first two went to Huskers wide receiver Trey Palmer with TJ Hall in coverage. Palmer had touchdown grabs of 87 and 18 yards. Then, Thompson connected with Marcus Washington as Nebraska beat Jamison Heinz in coverage for a 14-yard touchdown catch.
Three of those Nebraska scores were set up by Iowa miscues. Both Spencer Petras and Alex Padilla fumbled, resulting in a 21-yard field goal and then the second touchdown to Palmer. Ultimately, the death blow was a muffed punt by Arland Bruce that set up the Washington touchdown grab to start the third quarter.
Though backup quarterback Alex Padilla and Iowa fought back valiantly, ultimately, those early mistakes were just too much to overcome. Here was how Iowa fans and national voices responded on social media to the heartbreaking loss that ended Iowa's hopes of a trip back to Indy.
For the seniors
Iowa loses Cooper DeJean on the first defensive series
Nebraska takes advantage
DeJean loss kills Iowa
Petras fumble sets up another early Nebraska score
And again Nebraska makes Iowa pay
At least Iowa will send some All-Stars
Petras exits with injury
It's Padilla time
Padilla time starts rocky
Maybe Iowa can get a good Black Friday deal
Comeback feels insurmountable
Thank you, halftime
Story originally appeared on Hawkeyes Wire