Illinois Welcomes Iowa on Homecoming

It's the 94th Annual Homecoming in Champaign, IL and the University of Illinois Fighting Illini are taking on the hated Iowa Hawkeyes. The buzz of Homecoming normally brings down excited alumni and puts the students in a frenzy, but after 13 straight Big Ten losses, the excitement in Champaign is surrounding the Orange & Blue Scrimmage, not the football game.

In a weird twist of fate, the last time Iowa came into Champaign, their starting quarterback was none other than Illinois quarterback Jon Beutjer. That trip to Champaign for the Hawkeyes was not a memorable experience because Illinois dominated the Hawkeyes with a 31-0 shutout in 2000. Thanks to the wonderful schedule makers in the Big Ten, Illinois and Iowa took a two year hiatus from playing each other in 2001 and 2002. Last year in Iowa City, Illinois lost to the Hawkeyes 41-10.

The Hawkeyes are coming into Champaign on a three game winning streak with wins over Michigan State, Ohio State, and Penn State. This three game winning streak for the Hawkeyes came after losing two straight road games at Arizona State and at Michigan. Last week's 6-4 win over Penn State was a very emotional game for the Hawkeyes. Hawkeye Head Coach Kirk Ferentz's father passed away last week and Kirk was at his father's funeral on the day before the Penn State game. The hearts were heavy on the Hawkeye sideline on Saturday afternoon, and they rode those emotions to their third straight victory.

At the quarterback position, Iowa will be starting redshirt freshman Drew Tate. While Tate does not have the strongest arm, but he is tough enough to make plays for the Hawkeyes. With the Hawkeye running game decimated by injuries, Tate has been asked to carry more of the offensive load than it was expected early in the season.

In Iowa's five wins, Tate has thrown seven touchdown passes and four interceptions. In Iowa's two losses Tate has throw two touchdown passes compared to three interceptions. When it comes to sitting in the pocket, Tate does not have the poise or the athleticism to avoid the sack, as is evident by the eighteen sacks he has taken so far this season (just over two sacks a game).

Mobile quarterbacks have given Illinois problems this season, but Illinois should not have to worry about Tate getting out in the open field and running with the ball. When you include his sack numbers into his rushing statistics, he has amassed negative fifteen yards on the season on 51 carries. He has rushed for one touchdown on the season in Iowa's win over Ohio State. Last week against Penn State, he totaled eight rushing yards on ten attempts, so the Illini defense should not have to worry too much about Tate breaking free in the open field.

Iowa's running back corps has been decimated by injuries. The Hawkeyes are down to the fifth string running back, sophomore Sam Brownlee. The back up running back is a true freshman Damian Sims. Last week against Penn State Brownlee had sixteen carries totaling thirty yards. Since Brownlee took over the rushing duties for the Hawkeyes during the Ohio State contest, he has totaled just 65 yards on 26 carries.

The Hawkeye running game may have been decimated by injuries, but Tate has three hundred yard receivers that he looks to when he drops back to pass.

Junior Clinton Solomon has caught 26 passes for 447 yards and two touchdowns so far this season. Solomon has really come on in the Hawkeye's three game winning streak. Against Michigan State, Clinton had four catches for 105 yards. He followed up that performance with a seven catch, 131 yard, two touchdown performance in Iowa's 33-7 victory over Ohio State. Last week against Penn State, Solomon caught five passes for 46 yards.

Junior Ed Hinkel has been consistent throughout the season for Iowa if you discount the Arizona State game where he only caught one pass. In Iowa's other six games, Hinkel has caught four passes twice, seven twice, six once, and three once. He has never had a game of more than one hundred yards, but he did come very close with a season-high 98 yards against Michigan State on October 2.

After Hinkel and Solomon, Drew Tate has shown a penchant for looking towards senior Warren Holloway. Holloway did not play against the Nittany Lions next week, but according to the Iowa depth chart he is expected to start this week. Backing up Hinkel on the other side will be junior Matt Melloy who has not seen action since the first week of the season.

The Fighting Illini are going to be glad to be running into the Hawkeye running attack after last week's debacle in Minneapolis. There is no Marion Barber III or a Lawrence Maroney to be worried about, nor is there any one that should scare any of the Illini defenders. Thanks to the injuries, the Iowa running game ranks 113th out of 118 Division I-A teams. (For comparison sake, the Golden Gopher's rushing attack ranks 11). This suits the Illini defense well because they have been unable to stop the run on the season, ranking 104th out of 118 Division I-A teams in stopping the run.

Iowa 21 - Illinois 3
The Illini offense has not proven that it can move the ball against average defenses and with the Hawkeye defense statistically being the 14th best in the country, Illinois will once again have trouble moving the ball up and down the field. Iowa's offense may be anemic, but they will get the shot of iron their blood needs from the Illinois defense.

Illini Inquirer Top Stories