Nebraska's scoring drive just before halftime seemed interminable to Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz.

The nearly six-minute drive gave Nebraska a 10-0 lead en route to a 20-7 victory Friday.

"They had that six-minute drive where they had 80 plays, or 80 yards, excuse me. It felt like 80 plays," Ferentz said. "That one and the one for 85 yards in the third quarter. You hold the ball like that, that's just good football.

"I'm not going to say there was a turning point in the game, but I thought if there was one, it was right before the half."

Nebraska actually had 15 plays on the first touchdown drive, and all but two were runs until Taylor Martinez hooked up with Kyler Reed for the score. The third-quarter drive by the Huskers took a little more than five minutes, with NU going 82 yards in 12 plays. Brett Maher capped the drive with a 21-yard field goal.

In all, Nebraska had the ball nearly 38 minutes, to Iowa's 22. The Huskers converted on third down 10 of 21 times.

"It did feel like we were on the field a lot," Hawkeye defensive end Broderick Binns said. "If they're able to convert third down after third down, obviously we get discouraged.

"Our job is to try to put out the fire as best we can. Today, we didn't do a good job of that. Seeing our offense standing on the sideline is not good."

And when the Iowa offense was on the field, it had little success. The Hawkeyes had just seven first downs entering the fourth quarter and only 157 yards of total offense.

"That's a very good defense and they're coached very well," Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg said. "They didn't let us complete a big play. They made it tough to shake some guys loose. And they did a good job of mixing things up."

This was only the second time this season that Vandenberg didn't throw a touchdown pass. Part of the problem was that Marvin McNutt, who came into the game as the Hawkeyes' single-season and career leader in receiving yards, couldn't get going. After posting eight games with 100 or more yards receiving this season, the senior was limited to just 29 on four catches, with Alfonzo Dennard in coverage.

"They had a good game plan and they stuck to it. They had a lot of different looks, and we just couldn't get into a rhythm today," McNutt said. "Most of the time, it was Dennard. To me, it looked like a double team. They did a good job of taking me away."

Running back Marcus Coker, who ran for 87 yards, said the swarming Husker defense caused problems.

"They're a big-time defense and they brought more than one guy to the point of attack all the time," he said. "As the game went on, we didn't execute as well."

Ferentz said the problems for the Hawkeyes started with the passing game.

"I think the story for us was we couldn't do anything in the passing game," he said. "We ran the ball effectively, but we couldn't get anything to go in the passing game. We never got much balance and we weren't able to sustain drives."

Reach Ryly Jane Hambleton at 402-473-7314 or rhambleton@journalstar.com.