Illinois’ last win in Iowa City was in 1999 against a 1-10 Iowa team in Kirk Ferentz's first year. The 40-24 win was an exciting one for the Illini. Senior kicker Neil Rackers went 4-for-4 on field goals, including a fake field goal that he caught for a touchdown.
I hoped I had a video to show you, but here's the transcript from the Chicago Tribune article of the game:
As a soccer player in high school, Rackers led Aquinas Mercy to back-to-back state championships in 1993 and 1994. But that was overshadowed by the swift kick he gave the bottom-dwelling Hawkeyes (1-8, 0-6).
His 50-yard field goal, a career best, tied the game 3-3. His second field goal traveled 49 yards and put Illinois up 6-3. It was Rackers’ third score, however, that left the crowd of 61,350 in shock.
Illinois faced fourth-and-3 at the Iowa 18-yard line early in the second quarter when Fitts, the holder and a former high school quarterback, rolled out and hit Rackers, a former prep wide receiver, for a touchdown that gave the Illini a 13-3 lead.
Ron Turner and special teams coach, Greg McMahon had worked on the play all year and called the play to stun the crowd at Kinnick. Iowa did claw its way back, thinning the lead down to 26-24. But Kurt Kittner led a 10-play, 80-yard TD drive to put the game away. (Fun note: Illinois Athletic Director, Josh Whitman, also played in this game.)
Since this win, Iowa has succeeded spectacularly under Ferentz, going to 17 bowl games, with 2 Big Ten championships and 1 Big Ten West title. In the same period, Illinois has gone through 6 head coaches, 7 bowl games, and 1 Rose Bowl loss. To make matters worse, Illinois has only had 4 seasons where it posted a record greater than .500.
Recent memory against the Hawkeyes leaves a sour taste in your mouth. First, we have the 63-0 beat down in 2018 on Senior Night. There is also the 0-7 record since the West division was created in 2014.
It’s safe to say that the Iowa game has favored the Hawkeyes for the greater part of the last three decades. In that time, Illinois has only won 6 times in 23 games. Illinois’ last win was at Memorial Stadium in 2008 off a Matt Eller field goal with 24 seconds left.
Well, there is a chance this all changes this weekend.