No time for fancy intros today...this game was an instant classic!
Wes Lunt returned to the lineup this week for the virtual Illini and he wasted no time making his mark. The opening drive of the game consisted of a 6 play, 75 yd drive that ended with an 8 yd touchdown pass to Mike Dudek. The Illini were up 7-0 early and rolling. After a 34 yd rebuttal from Marshall Koehn, Lunt and the Illini offense stormed down the field once again. This time, Josh Ferguson was able to punch a 3 yd run across the goal-line to give Illinois a 14-3 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter started even better than the first for the Illini, as a fumbled exchange between Mark Weisman and Jake Rudock was scooped up by Mason Monheim at the Hawkeye 24 yd line. Two plays later, Lunt found Geronimo Allison in the back of the endzone giving Illinois a 21-3 lead. From there, the rest of the quarter was quite a defensive stalemate as both offenses would struggle to move the ball across midfield. Rudock was able to break that trend with 3:24 left in the half which led to a touchdown run by Weisman, pulling Iowa within 11. Wes and the offense were able to take advantage of the remaining time, and David Reisner capped the drive with a 28 yd field goal.
Halftime Score: ILLINI ~ 24 Iowa ~ 10
Thus began the second half...and if you've read these simulation posts throughout the year, you'll know that the Virtual Illini are notorious for giving up the lead in the 2nd half. This being the case, there was no surprise when Tevaun Smith snagged a 48 yd bomb from Rudock to cut the Illini lead to 24-17. There also was no surprise when Ferguson fumbled the ball at midfield on the next drive, resulting in another field goal from Koehn. Just like that, Iowa trailed Illinois 24-20 midway through the 3rd Quarter. The Illini offense would still try to control the clock by running the football, and would find success with Donovonn Young picking up two key first downs putting the Illini inside the Iowa 30 yd line. Reisner would cap the drive with a 38 yd field goal and the Illini would jump ahead by a touchdown as the 3rd Quarter came to a close.
Trailing 27-20, the Iowa Hawkeyes took possession of the ball looking for a touchdown. Running the ball would be a great success for Weisman and the Hawkeye offense, and he would cross the goal-line from 4 yds out to tie the game with 9 minutes remaining. The Illini would attempt to answer, but a Wes Lunt pass was intercepted deep in Iowa territory. Thankfully, the Illinois turnover wouldn't prove to be too costly as the Hawkeyes punted the ball back to the Illini with 6 minutes remaining. Getting another chance, Lunt found Malik Turner and Jon Davis for completions of 15+ yards putting the Illini at 1st and Goal from the 3. Ferguson would score 2 plays later, and the Illini led once again 34-27. With only 1:57 left in the game, Iowa hurried the ball across midfield and was able to stop the clock with 42 seconds left. Smith would grab a pass at the Illinois 3 yd line and Iowa set up 1st and Goal from there with 33 seconds remaining. Two plays later, Iowa scored.
Instead of kicking the extra point, Ferentz left the offense on the field to try and win the game (a-la Fitzy and the Cats last week). The ball was snapped, Rudock faked the handoff, rolled right, and V'Angelo Bentley stepped in front of Rudock's pass to end the game.
I promptly ran a victory lap around the couch...