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Iowa Football: Deacon Hill Builds Confidence in Hawkeye Victory Over Illinois

Hill made some great throws against Rutgers. The Hawkeyes will need him to do so again to defeat the Illini.

Rutgers v Iowa
Can Deacon Hill actually deliver the West in Iowa City?
Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

A week ago, confidence in this Iowa Hawkeyes team was waning. The offense was stuck in a rut at the bottom of the NCAA rankings ocean and there was no sign of a boost incoming.

Then the Hawkeyes “exploded” for 402 yards of total offense and 22 points against Rutgers. It wasn’t a huge day by normal standards, but in the context of a historically bad offense, it was a great day.

Deacon Hill was a big part of that, completing 65% of his passes while throwing for 223 yards with one TD and one INT. Both were highs for an Iowa QB this season. The result was the first game that looked truly complementary with the offense chewing up both yardage and clock while a rested defense slowly squeezed their grip tighter and tighter around the Knights.

Coming off of the best performance of the season, it should be no surprise then that nearly 60% of Hawkeye fans feel Hill earned back some trust a week ago.

Perhaps more than Hill, though, Brian Ferentz may deserve some acknowledgement. For the first time since Hill was thrust into the spotlight against Michigan State, we saw Brian actually lean in on the play-action passing game for the majority of the gameplan. There was diversity and creativity in the looks with bootlegs, rollouts and most importantly, rhythm throws that were makeable.

The encouraging part is those are all replicable. There’s no reason Brian can’t go back to the well time and again and there’s nothing to indicate Hill can’t make the throws. His struggles have largely come when he’s gotten off-rhythm or forced to move through several progressions. Those are plays that will inevitably creep up in a game, but can be limited.

If Brian can learn from his successes, and his failures, to lean into the good and avoid the bad. History seems to indicate that’s not terribly likely, but the Hawkeyes have managed to get to 8-2 in spite of the offense and any signs of life deserve some optimism at this point.

Perhaps that’s what’s driving the outlook for Hawkeye fans for this week’s showdown with Illinois. In this week’s Reacts poll, 75% of respondents picked the Hawkeyes to win outright vs the Illini.

That’s up 1% from our preseason poll and importantly, the vast majority of results came in after we learned Iowa would be playing this week without star cornerback Cooper DeJean.

The Hawkeyes are favored by 3-points in the matchup according to DraftKings Sportsbook, so perhaps the optimism is warranted. Admittedly, though, optimism feels a bit strange for the fanbase at this stage of the season. Especially after the ending we saw a year ago.

Iowa is set to close out their home slate against Illinois on senior day Saturday before traveling to Lincoln to face off with the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Black Friday. Today’s matchup kicks off at 2:30pm CT and will be broadcast on FS1.