Illinois (4-2, 1-1) put up a valiant effort on Saturday, but it wasn't enough to overcome the No. 22 Iowa (6-0, 2-0) as they lost by a final score of 29-20. It took a little while for Wes Lunt to get going through the air, but he ended up with 317 yards and a touchdown on 25 of 42 passing.Geronimo Allison led the Illini receiving corps with eight receptions for 142 yards and a score.
Here's what we learned from the team's trip to Iowa City.
1. The defensive line is for real
This was an incredible performance by the Fighting Illini defense. Sure, Jordan Canzeri racked up over 200 yards on the ground, but the penetration from the defensive line was something we haven't seen for quite some time.
It all starts with Jihad Ward, Dawuane Smoot, Chunky Clements and Rob Bain up front. Iowa twice had first-and-goal from inside the 5-yard line, but the unit stepped up to the challenge and allowed a combined three points during those two possessions. There was also an ample amount of pressure being placed on Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard this afternoon; the Illini lost containment on him a few times, but they more than made up for it by recording four sacks.
Enjoy this defensive line while you still can because it'll probably be awhile before they're this dominant again.
2. Illinois' offense is still terrible
Let me preface this by saying the offense did look at least somewhat competent throughout the second half.
Bill Cubit's play calling has been atrocious. The Geronimo Allison trick play on third-and-1 that resulted in an interception is just unforgivable. Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?
Second, the wide receivers haven't the slightest clue as to what's going on. I mean, they're lining up in the wrong spots, jumping before the snap, and they never appear to be on the same page as Wes Lunt (which could admittedly go both ways). The drops have been getting most of the attention -- and rightfully so -- but this unit needs to figure it out in order for the team to make a bowl game.
But perhaps most importantly, the Illini aren't getting the job done inside the red zone. Settling for field goals will only go so far during conference season, especially when playing on the road in hostile environments.
3. Geronimo Allison is better at WR than QB
How about the season Geronimo Allison is having? The Big Ten's leading receiver had another monster day and he's really the only bright spot in the passing game. The senior was added to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List last week and he's backed up that recognition with a combined 239 yards and 2 touchdowns against two quality opponents.
Allison took a massive hit to the helmet towards the end of the game, but he did get up and walk off under his own power. Looks like the bye week is coming at the right time for Illinois.