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Iowa 35, Illinois 21: Trust the Process

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Seven in a row over Illinois

NCAA Football: Iowa at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Your #19 Iowa Hawkeyes scored 35 unanswered points to dig themselves out of an early 14-0 hole to beat the HATED Illinois fighting Illinoisans, 35-21.

Iowa’s fifth consecutive win was a rollercoaster of emotions. We aren’t strangers to any sort of feelings during a Hawkeye football game, but I can say with certainty that I didn’t see this one ending in such a confident celebration from my couch.

To wit: the Iowa offense was lifeless the entire first quarter, where the Hawkeye drive chart looked like this:

  • 3 plays, 5 yards, punt
  • 3 plays, -2 yards, punt
  • 6 plays, 25 yards, punt
  • 4 plays, 17 yards, punt

At this time, Illinois had assembled a 14-point lead. Brand Peters was dazzling, and Spencer Petras... wasn’t. Iowa’s QB was just 2-4 for 29 yards, a sack, and a couple of one-yard scrambles.

He threw the ball five yards short of an open Tyler Goodson. Errant passes over an arms length away to Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Shaun Beyer that would’ve gone for first downs hamstrung drives.

At this point, just about everyone was clamoring for anyone not wearing #7 under center for the Black and Gold.

But down 14-0 with the ballgame slipping away, ‘ol siete orchestrated an 8-play, 52 yard drive that was capped off by a sexy 22-yard catch and stumble into the endzone from Sam LaPorta.

The touchdown was set up by a suffocating effort from Phil Parker’s unit, where a big stuff on first down derailed the series. A dumb penalty on Charlie Jones tacked 15 yards off the net punt and Iowa got the ball in primo field position.

It was the first of three consecutive three-and-outs Iowa’s defense forced to end the first half, an absolute masterclass in bouncing back after giving up two touchdowns in the first three possessions of the game.

Brandon Peters was a diamond cutter on those scoring drives—he was 6-6 for 94 yards and the two scores, with a 13-yard run on a 3rd down sprinkled in there, too.

Iowa bounced back to make it 14-13 at half, with two straight field goals from Keith Duncan closing the gap. Iowa got to 1st and goal on the Illini 5 on its final possession of the half, but two balls thrown away sandwiched a poorly thrown fade to a blanketed Brandon Smith.

A dramatic fielding of the ball on Caleb Shudak’s kickoff set Illinois up at its 18 to start the second half. Two straight incompletions from Peters hobbled the drive following 3 straight runs from Chase Brown and Iowa got the ball back at its 30.

Nine plays and 70 yards later, Iowa secured its first lead of the game on a drive that never saw a third down. Nice scampers from Tyler Goodson set up a 19-yard laser to Brandon Smith and eventually, this cute little taunt from ISM:

The showboating is awesome and if you don’t like it grow up.

Iowa then got its second two-point conversion of the year after a catch from Goodson to make it 21-14.

The next drive was more suffocation. Peters got eaten alive by Joe Evans, Chauncey Golston and Daviyon Nixon on third down in the first minute of the fourth quarter, and Jones took the ensuing punt 18 yards to give Iowa the ball on the Illini 32.

Two plays later, Iowa gave itself a two score cushion on this absolute gem:

A 16-yard run by Goodson set up the tuddy, and he was running behind an absolute convoy on that one.

Down 14 with not much time left, Lovie Smith turned to redshirt freshman Isaiah Williams at QB.

The decision will be questioned, as Williams ended his only drive of consequence on an incompletion on 4th down. Half the Illini offensive line false-started, but it didn’t matter as a safety blitz charged him in the face. Williams was just 3-8 on a drive that somehow spanned 15 plays and only 62 yards.

Up two scores with 7 minutes to go, Petras handed it off to Goodson, then Goodson handed it off to Ivory Kelly-Martin, then Petras converted it to LaPorta on 3rd down.

More wildcat looks from Goodson, with Pottebaum, Sargent, IKM, and Tyrone Tracy lining up beside him bled the game away. Tracy had a great 21-yard run from a Goodson hand-off to keep it moving and I’m so glad I was able to write that sentence.

Everyone’s favorite end-arounder end-arounded for his second score of the game with 2 minutes left to run it up to 35-6.

Williams scored a garbage time touchdown to make it 35-21, whatever. Eight scoreless possessions for the Illini preceded that gift from the Iowa defense.

  • It was really interesting to see the two quarterbacks in this one. Peters couldn’t have started hotter, and Petras colder. One of them ended the game under center, and the other... didn’t.
  • After starting 2-4 for 29 yards, a sack, and a couple no-gain scrambles, Petras ended the game 18-28 for 220 yards and 3 touchdowns, shutting up armchair quarterbacks everywhere.
  • After letting Peters complete his first six passes, the Iowa defense only allowed 4 more completions out of the senior. This is the Iowa defense we typically see to end a season.
  • Iowa had 204 rushing yards on the day, with Goodson and Mekhi Sargent leading the way at 92 and 54 yards apiece.
  • Using Wildcat to end the game is really friggin’ smart.