IOWA CITY, IOWA - Illinois turned it over twice in the fourth quarter and Jordan Canzeri ran for 256 yards on 43 carries to give Iowa (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) bowl eligibility and end a three-game Big Ten win streak for the Illini (4-2, 1-1).
Freshman running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn (67 rushings yards) left the game in the fourth quarter after taking a big hit and lost a fumble on his first carry back in the game on the first play of an Illini drive, down 26-20 to Iowa with 3:20 left in the fourth quarter. Illinois coach Bill Cubit opened his bag of tricks -- completing a few successful flea flickers -- but the aggressive play calling backfired when on a crucial 3rd-and-1 in Iowa territory in the third quarter, he called for a double reverse pass and receiver Geronimo Allison threw a costly interception.
The Illini defensive line played well for most of the game, but the Hawkeyes made big plays. converted on 3rd-and 27 and 3rd and 13 in the first half. Canzeri's 75-yard touchdown run in the third quarter gave Iowa a much-needed cushion after the Illini trimmed the Hawkeyes lead to three points.
Wes Lunt (25-for-42, 317 yards, one touchdown) found a rhythm in the second half, completing 19 of 27 passes for 228 yards, finding his favorite receiver Allison eight times for 148 yards. But Allison left the game on the Illini's final drive after taking a big hit.
What it means
Illinois continues to take steps forward but must clean up mistakes if it wants to pull of upsets of teams like Iowa. Cubit's play-calling will continue to get dissected as he auditions for the permanent job. The big positive is that this was a much more competitive game up front for the Illini defensive line until they wore down in the second half. Illinois looks like a competitive, possible middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team but will need to win the big-play battle more often to separate itself.
Stars of the game
Dawuane Smoot, LEO and Jihad Ward, DE: It's difficult to pick one guy from the front four. Dawuane Smoot continues to establish himself as one of the Big Ten's best pass rushers. after picking up 3.0 tackles for loss and a sack. Jihad Ward (11 tackles, 9 solo) was great in pursuit down the line of scrimmage.
The Illini return home for a bye week at the midway point of the regular season. It's a chance for the team to reset and heal up. A 4-2 start has to be considered a positive start to the season -- especially following the head coach's dismissal six days before the season opener -- but the Illini enter a critical three game stretch with an Oct. 24 home game against Wisconsin, which has an elite defense, and two road games at Penn State and Purdue. If Illinois wins two, they'll be bowl eligible and fight for bowl position the final three games.