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Iowa Football Position Grades: Illinois

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The Hawkeyes let Illinois stick around before jumping to 17 point lead late.

Charlie Jones making a House Call
JOSEPH CRESS/IOWA CITY PRESS-CITIZEN

I felt pretty decent going into the game against Illinois. I predicted a 30-13 Hawkeye victory. It ended up 33-23. I’ve decided to not count the Illini’s garbage touchdown, so my prediction looks even better, thank you very much. This game turned on Charlie Jones’ 100 yard kickoff return. At that point Illinois was up 10-0. It honestly felt like had we gone 3 and out, we could have had our doors blown off. On to this week’s grades.

Offense

QB: C

I have been doing this column for the past two years. Iowa’s quarterbacks, whether it is Spencer Petras or Alex Padilla, are somewhat hamstrung with our philosophy of not turning the ball over, milking the clock, and protecting a seven point lead like it is the Holy Grail. At the QB position I value winning the football game over all other stats. I’m the same way when I look at a point guard in basketball. What made Saturday’s game so hard to breakdown were the drops. The number was six, I believe. It felt like 26. One of the drops could have had a little less zip on it, but I believe if the ball hits you in the hands, you should catch it. On the day Padilla’s stat line was abysmal. He was 6 for 17 for 83 yards and one interception. The pick was basically a jump ball to Keagan Johnson. I know Kirk and company will freak out about that throw, but Johnson will get that more often than not in his career. What Padilla did provide was the ability to move around in the pocket. At this point he is our best option. If no one transfers this offseason I honestly feel like we could have a true four person competition for the starting spot. Earlier this year I jokingly wrote that Petras’ O-line was blocking like they didn’t like him. I could have said that Padilla’s receivers were catching like they didn’t care for him either.

RB: A-

Tyler Goodson and Gavin Williams are becoming a nice one-two punch. Goodson had an excellent day on the ground, rushing 27 times for 132 yards (4.9). Williams came in in relief and rushed 10 times for 56 yards (5.6). Goodson is patient (sometimes to a fault) and Williams gets north and south very quickly. Both backs showed good ball security.

WR: C

This grade is basically all over the map. Arland Bruce IV was ridiculous. The same could be said for another Iowa receiver. Bruce rushed 4 times for 23 yards and this glorious touchdown. That’s not going to be a fun film review for that Illinois defender.

Here was an excellent catch by Bruce IV along the Hawkeye sideline. This young man is something else. He reminds me a little bit of Brandon Wegher.

Now to the not-so-great. Keagan Johnson was targeted 6 times and hauled in just 1 pass for 12 yards. Nico Ragaini caught two balls for 20 yards. The drops were many and they mostly were on nice third down throws by Padilla.

TE: D-

If you play tight end for the Hawkeyes you are required to block. Iowa had a very good day on the ground. Sam LaPorta and Luke Lachey played a role in this. From a receiving standpoint this game didn’t even take place. It never happened. LaPorta and Lachey were each targeted just once each. They had no receptions.

OL: C+

The Hawkeyes allowed two sacks. Padilla’s mobility probably avoided a few more. The Hawkeyes moved the ball very well on the ground against the Illini. I will take 172 yards rushing (3.3 avg) all day every day. Tyler Linderbaum might be the most respected/hated offensive lineman in the country. The Hawkeyes’ line seems to be making strides despite not having starting tackle Mason Richman for the second game in a row. I initially had this grade as a B-. I downgraded it because Illinois’ Isaiah Gay had a career day with 10 tackles, 1 sack, and 5.5 TFL’s.

Defense

DL: C

Illinois quarterback Brandon Peters started quickly against the Hawks. Part of this is that we didn’t have much of a pass rush on him. Eventually the Hawkeye defenders got to him. Logan Lee and Joe Evans both ended up with a sack on the day. Zach VanValkenburg played his last game at Kinnick Stadium collecting four tackles and 1 TFL. Iowa is getting some quality reps and experience from younger players; we could use a boost in production from John Waggoner.

LB: A-

Iowa’s top two tacklers were both linebackers. Not a huge surprise there. The two biggest plays they made were in pass coverage. Jack Campbell had 8 tackles, 1 QBH, and this pick 6. It shows you what type of cerebral player Campbell is as you could see him trying to decide if he should score or not.

Seth Benson had 7 tackles and 2 pass breakups including this terrific play on a key third down stop.

Jestin Jacobs had 4 tackles and 1 QBH.

DB/Cash: B-

Iowa was without two starting defensive backs and it showed early in the game. Seniors Jack Koerner and Matt Hankins missed the game due to injury. Jermari Harris continues to gain valuable experience and Quinn Schulte filled in admirably for Phil Parker’s defense. Riley Moss had five tackles and one excellent pass breakup. Kaevon Merriweather has provided solid play from his safety position. Dane Belton has become Iowa’s next Cash (LB/DB hybrid) player who will play in The League. Belton had an interception and two pass breakups. Hopefully Iowa can get Koerner and Hankins back for Nebraska with the short week.

Special Teams: A-

Iowa’s special teams was involved with two of the biggest plays of the day. The first was Tory Taylor’s drop on the low snap and the second was Charlie Jones’ momentum-swinging kick return for a touchdown. The kick returner gets the glory, but the kick return unit blocked incredibly well on that play.

Taylor punted four times for 46.5 yards. Caleb Shudak has had an incredible year (knock on wood) hitting field goals from 51, 48, 29, and 30 (only missing from 57) and going 3 for 3 on his PAT’s

Next Up: Nebraska

It has been a strange couple of weeks for Hawkeye fans. This past weekend we were forced to root for Nebraska (yuck) and next weekend we will need to cheer for the Gophers (nauseating). The biggest determining factor of course is if the Hawkeyes can take care of business. Nebraska is a team that scares me. They have some talent. It seems like Scott Frost does just enough each week to help his team lose the game. If Frost can stay out of his team’s way, the Cornhuskers (and their annoying fans) can ruin our Thanksgiving. Let’s not let that happen, Hawks. As always, Go Hawks!