It was a long shot to make a bowl game.
The Illini (4-7, 3-5 BIG) were looking for win number five on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. After opening the game strong and staying within striking distance, Iowa (9-2, 6-2 BIG) pulled away and kept its Big Ten title hopes alive, winning 33-23 on Saturday.
Illinois went on the road to No. 17 Iowa looking for their third straight road win against a ranked team, but they would half to do it without head coach Bret Bielema, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday. The Illini defense was also short handed — with defensive lineman Rod Perry and defensive back Taz Nicholson not making the trip to Iowa City (not to mention linebackers Jake Hansen and Calvin Hart Jr. are out the season).
While first quarter — let alone first drive points — have been hard to come by for Illinois, the Illini absolutely carved up the Iowa Hawkeyes defense on the first drive of the game. Quarterback Brandon Peters opened up the game 6-of-7 for 68 yards and led a 75-yard drive that ended with a touchdown to Luke Ford to take an early lead on the road.
An Iowa botched snap on a punt on an ensuing drive gave the Illini the ball in plus territory, and they converted that into a 10-0 advantage. But, just when it seemed like the Illini had all the momentum, Charlie Jones took a kick back 100-yards for a touchdown and put the Hawkeyes on the board.
Iowa scored 17 straight after the Illini’s 10-0 start. Illinois answered with a field goal and had a chance to take the lead back before half, but Peters had a third-down pass picked off. The teams traded three-and-outs and Iowa took a 17-13 lead to the locker room.
The third quarter was a quiet one, as both teams netted just a field goal.
Iowa had a golden opportunity to make the game two possessions, after three Illini personal foul penalties set up the Hawkeyes in the red zone. But the Illini defense stood tall, forcing a field goal and keeping the game at seven points with nine minutes to play.
The Illini squandered Kerby Joseph’s fifth interception of the year when they could not convert a fourth and short midway through the 4th quarter. Instead, Ford juggled a pass from Peters and Iowa took over on downs.
The Hawkeyes put the game away with a field goal and a pick-six, and the Illini’s losing streak in Iowa City continues.
Illinois added a garbage-time touchdown late, a 16-yard strike from Peters to Isaiah Williams.
Isaiah Gay (ILL): 10 tackles, 1 sack, 5.5 TFLs
Casey Washington (ILL): 3 catches, 61 yards
Kerby Joseph (ILL): 6 tackles, 1 interception
Tyler Goodson (IOWA): 27 carries, 132 yards
Dane Belton (IOWA): 1 tackle, 1 interception
- The Illini average below 140 passing yards per game, ranking last in the Big Ten. However, Brandon Peters opened up the game 6-of-7 for 68 yards. Peters’ 248 yards and two touchdowns were his most this season.
- Late in the first half Iowa picked off its 20th pass of the season, leading FBS. They added to that stat with their 21st interception late in the fourth quarter.
- James’ McCourt’s 53-yard field goal in the third quarter extended his program record for 50+ yard kicks. The kick also tied his season-long and a program record for longest road kick in a Big Ten game according to Illini Stats & Notes.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Luke Ford completes the Illini’s opening drive with his first touchdown since Week 0 against Nebraska.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Ethan Tabel and Blake Hayes would never.
TWEET OF THE GAME
Let's see if I can get my section to start chanting Let's Go Brandon— Illini Out Walking Around (@WhityRemarks) November 20, 2021
The Illini will finish off their regular season slate next weekend at home. Illinois will host Northwestern at Memorial Stadium for rivalry week at 2:30 p.m. The network is TBD.