If anything, the game was more competitive than last year’s edition in Champaign.
Just over a year removed from one of the most embarrassing losses in Illinois Football history — a 63-0 shellacking at the hands of Iowa — the Illini made Saturday afternoon’s contest at Kinnick Stadium a battle, despite losing 19-10. The loss brings Illinois’ four-game winning streak to a close ahead of the regular season finale against Northwestern.
The defeat also officially ends Illinois’ bid of winning the Big Ten West. But most of Illini Nation would have without a doubt taken being in the division race until Nov. 23.
Iowa capitalized on a fourth-down conversion and scored a touchdown on its opening drive of the first quarter, but a doinked and missed field goal and a Sydney Brown interception deep in Hawkeyes territory kept the Illini (6-5, 4-4 Big Ten) within striking distance, going into halftime only down 13-7.
Even on the road against No. 17 Iowa, the Illini’s defense played well. Brown’s interception was the team’s 27th takeaway of the season, leading all of college football. Illinois was without linebacker Jake Hansen, defensive lineman Jamal Woods, cornerback Tony Adams, as well as cornerback Nate Hobbs for a few plays in the second quarter.
Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley had his way with the depleted Illini secondary, throwing for 308 yards. But the Illini hardly broke, allowing just one touchdown and four field goals — keeping Illinois alive.
Despite a pair of Peters’ picks and a fumble, Illinois was able to sustain offense against the high ranked Illini defense. The run game struggled to get going, but Peters made plays when he needed to, whether through the air or on the ground.
Peters threw for 125 yards and one touchdown, as well as 74 yards on the ground.
The Illini run game got cooking in the fourth quarter, including a pair of first down runs from both senior backs Dre Brown and Reggie Corbin. The legs set up Illinois to kick a field goal and make the game one score game. Brown finished with 63 yards and Corbin tallied 38 himself.
The defense forced a three and out, but Peters’ third turnover (a fumble on third and two) sealed the game for the Hawkeyes — as they took over in Illini territory and kicked a field goal to make it 19-10.
That was enough for Iowa, but it sure wasn’t 63-0.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
NO SHUTOUT: Of course, last year Illinois was shutout. This year, in the first quarter, the Illini scored on Donny Navarro’s touchdown catch.
FOURTH AND NO: With a chance to tie the game late in the first half, the Illini chose to go for it on fourth and six rather than attempt to kick a 54 yard field goal with James McCourt. Instead, Peters got sacked on fourth down and allowed Iowa to get into field goal range and make the game a 13-7 game instead of 10-10.
WIDE LEFT: Down 13-7 in the third, James McCourt missed a field goal from 50-plus-yards. The Illini threw a red zone interception and missed a field goal to start the second half.
SACK — NVM: Dele Harding bursted through the offensive line and ripped Iowa quarterback around for a sack, but instead Nate Stanley stayed on his feet and delivered a dime for 40 yards down the field.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Scholarship wideout Donny Navarro doing scholarship wideout things.
HERE'S DONNY!@IlliniFootball answers with a wide open TD: pic.twitter.com/4x7rmrn0cB— Illinois on BTN (@IllinoisOnBTN) November 23, 2019
TWEET OF THE GAME
Matt Millen has compared Nate Stanley to Roethlisberger and Terry Bradshaw, but he also reminds me a bit of a Tommy Maddox, Neil O’Donnell, Mike Tomczak type. Big Bubby Brister energy as well. Not to mention Mark Malone and to a lesser extent David Woodley— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) November 23, 2019
But, for real.
You know what? Win or lose, there’s no doubt that this is a real, honest-to-God Big Ten caliber football team.— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) November 23, 2019
This is all we’ve ever asked for.
Illinois returns home to Memorial Stadium next Saturday for Senior Day against the atrocious Northwestern Wildcats. The Illini are no longer able to win the Big-Ten West, but this game gives Illinois a chance to draw a better bowl game. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. on FS1.