Hawks again rely on defense to seal the deal
IOWA CITY (AP) — Iowa’s defense made sure the team that was leading the nation in turnover margin gave up the ball.
The No. 19 Hawkeyes forced three turnovers in Saturday’s 19-10 win over Illinois, another stout performance from a defense that has been shutting teams down all season.
Iowa (8-3, 5-3 Big Ten), which came into the game allowing just 12.4 points per game, held Illinois to its lowest point total of the season one week after doing the same thing to Minnesota in a 23-19 win.
“There’s no quit in those guys,” Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley said. “They kept us in a lot of games this year. And quite frankly, they’ve won a lot of games for this year with the way they’ve played.”
This win was punctuated by the turnovers. Illinois quarterback Brandon Peters threw an interception to Michael Ojemudia on the Fighting Illini’s first possession of the game, then threw an interception to Matt Hankins in the end zone in the third quarter. Peters also lost a fumble in the fourth quarter.
“That was big-time,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We did a great job of getting takeaways.”
The Illini (6-5, 4-4) saw their four-game winning streak come to an end.
“It definitely was big,” Ojemudia said of getting the takeaways. “We knew going into this game they were going to give us their best shot. They’re a hot team. Just tightening down (on defense) was what we wanted to do in this game.”
Iowa had forced just 13 turnovers in the first 10 games.
“We felt like we haven’t been getting that many turnovers this year,” safety Geno Stone said. “I definitely feel like we got them this game.”
The Illini, who had outscored opponents 79-22 in the second half in their winning streak, got into Iowa territory on three consecutive possessions in the second half, but only got a field goal.
“We had the opportunities,” Illinois coach Lovie Smith said. “But we didn’t make the plays today.”
Stanley threw for 308 yards and Keith Duncan kicked four field goals to set a new Big Ten single-season mark.
Iowa opened the game with a touchdown for the second consecutive week when Tyler Goodson scored on a 2-yard run for a 7-0 lead. Illinois tied the game when Peters threw a 31-yard pass to Donny Navarro later in the first quarter.
From that point, it was all field goals. Duncan had field goals of 23, 45, 24 and 29 yards to make it 27 this season for the conference record. Illinois’ James McCourt kicked a 28-yarder in the fourth quarter.
Iowa has won six consecutive games in this rivalry, but this was a competitive game. The Hawkeyes had won the last three games by a combined score of 137-16, including last season’s 63-0 game.
Iowa could move up a spot or two with the win. Illinois had received a vote in last week’s poll. Both teams were already bowl eligible.
Duncan had his third game of the season with four field goals. He also missed two field goals in the game. Duncan is 27 of 32 in field goals this season.
“Of course, we would like to get touchdowns on every single drive,” Duncan said. “But our goal is to get points. We did that four out of the six times today on field goals, and we’re happy to do that.”
Iowa plays at Nebraska on Friday.
Illinois plays at home against Northwestern next Saturday.