IOWA CITY, Iowa — Scott Frost thought it. Many in the crowd of 65,000-plus probably had the same idea.
"We knew they were kind of in that no-man's land where you don't want to punt because you're not really going to get anything from it," NU senior safety Tre Neal said.
Facing fourth-and-8 at the Nebraska 37-yard line, and with 42 seconds remaining, the Hawkeyes rolled the dice, leaving the offense on the field with the game tied.
Quarterback Nate Stanley connected with sophomore T.J. Hockenson, Iowa's leading receiver entering the game, for 10 yards, setting up Miguel Recinos' game-winning 41-yard field goal.
"I figured they were punting," Frost, Nebraska's coach, said after Friday's 31-28 loss at Kinnick Stadium. "I give Coach (Kirk) Ferentz credit."
Iowa's late gamble was one of a handful of momentum-swinging risks by both teams.
But none were bigger, or gutsier, than the fourth-down play on the game-winning drive. Iowa, originally, attempted to draw the Huskers offsides before calling a timeout.
"I thought they'd end up going for it no matter what," NU senior linebacker Luke Gifford said. "They made a good play, they just executed. We decided we wanted to bring the house, try to get after (Stanley), make it a quick throw."
Ferentz said the Hawkeyes got the defensive set they were looking for on the play. Had it not, Iowa would have punted, the coach added.
"It matched up," he said. "Like everything else, it's down to execution. Our players did a great job blocking the blitz."
Had Iowa misfired on the play, Nebraska would have had about 35 seconds to get freshman kicker Barret Pickering into range.
"I like our chances of hitting a couple of plays and giving us an opportunity for a field goal," Frost said. "They rolled the dice there, and I think we had the right defense on. We gave a little too much ground in one spot. It was a great play by them."
Earlier in the second half, Iowa — up 28-13 — attempted a fake field goal from the Nebraska 3, but Hockenson was stopped short of the first down by 1 yard. A touchdown would have pushed the lead to 35-13.
"We needed (that stop)," Gifford said. "That was huge. We knew at some point that they would probably go with a fake. They've been pretty successful with them the past couple of weeks. Everybody was pretty alert for them."
Then Frost rolled the dice. Facing fourth-and-5 from its own 9-yard line, Nebraska lined up for a punt and snapped the ball to Gifford, who got the edge for the first down.
It may have been the game's biggest play (until the final drive). Nebraska scored seven plays later, capping a 98-yard drive with Adrian Martinez's 4-yard touchdown.
"We've been trying to run that for a long time," Gifford said of the fake that had been in the Huskers' hip pocket this season. "I couldn't believe we actually called it. We talked about it at halftime, we wanted to run it. We did a pretty good job executing it."
Nebraska and Iowa combined to go for it on seven fourth-down plays. Nebraska was 4-for-4 on fourth-down conversions, and Iowa was 2-for-3.