COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — Nebraska relied heavily on a power running game to overcome a 14-7 halftime deficit and pulled away for a 28-17 victory over Iowa in Saturday’s fifth annual River Battle Bowl at Gale Wickersham Stadium.
Offensive co-MVP Davon Brees (Centennial) carried 15 times for 150 yards to lead Nebraska, which rushed for 352 yards on 55 attempts. Fellow offensive MVP Aiden Oerter (Norris) added fourth-quarter touchdown runs of 4 and 1 yards as the Cornhusker state won for the second consecutive year and took a 3-2 lead in the series.
“Our fullback trap and our counters were going for us and we mixed in a couple of nice outside zone plays,” said Omaha North’s Larry Martin, who was the head coach for Nebraska. “Obviously, the elements didn’t really let us throw the football much, but it was just a good football game.”
In weather conditions that included a steady wind throughout and intermittent rain in the second half, Nebraska was just 1 of 6 passing for 11 yards and two interceptions. Carter Newill (Fremont) rushed six times for 58 yards and Jaylon Walker (Omaha Bryan) added 56 yards on seven carries, including a 4-yard TD run, as Nebraska enjoyed a 352-85 advantage in rushing yards.
Nebraska limited Iowa to 172 total yards. Defensive lineman Jaxon Johnson of BRLD was named defensive MVP for the winners, while Grand Island linebacker Caleb Francl had six tackles and Islander wide receiver/safety Broc Douglass had a tackle and a pass breakup to end Iowa’s final possession with 1:06 to play.
Adams Central quarterback Evan Johnson rushed six times for 16 yards, including a 1-yard TD sneak to tie the score 7-7 with 1:53 remaining in the first quarter. Johnson was 0 of 3 passing with an interception.
Running back Tyler Moen (Atlantic) had two 1-yard TD runs and received offensive MVP honors for Iowa.
Teammate John Palmer, a defensive back from Glenwood, recorded two interceptions and was named the defensive MVP.
Martin said he was proud of the way the Nebraska squad overcame early adversity.
Iowa’s first TD drive came after a fumbled center-quarterback exchange gave it possession at the Nebraska 15-yard line and Iowa’s second TD march of 99 yards was aided by 45 yards in penalties, including two personal fouls and a horse-collar tackle.
“(At halftime), we just talked about how we needed to take a big deep breath and get our emotions in check,” Martin said. “We were getting out of sync in a variety of different ways. Both offensive and defensively, I thought we calmed ourselves down and got back to doing what we do best.
“It just showed me a lot about their character. They competed and they did what we asked them to do.”