There were so many good things that took place on Saturday:
The Return of Mo Brown: Mo came back into the Iowa lineup for the first time since the Iowa State game back in the middle of November. Brown's first catch of the game was for a two yard loss on a wide receiver screen, but then he made a great diving catch from Nathan Chandler for a gain of more than 30 yards. Chandler really stepped up in the pocket on that play and it was a good play from both passer and receiver.
The ‘Return' of Jermelle Lewis: Sure, Lewis saw his first action of the year at Ohio State, but we didn't see much of him in his two carries.
On this day, we saw glimpses of the ‘real' Jermelle Lewis that we came to know and love last season. There was one play in particular in the fourth quarter where Lewis gained just three yards, but he did a ton of cutting on that play which has to give him confidence going into the rest of the season. He also ripped off several big gainers in rushing for 61 yards on nine carries.
With Mo and Jermelle back in the lineup, the Iowa offense could really start to click.
The Steady Nathan Chandler: Chandler had a great game and in the first half, he was 11 of 16 for 162 yards and one touchdown. Iowa also played its second straight game without a problem with the center/quarterback exchange and Iowa had continuity on the line for the second straight game, something that should not be overlooked.
Chandler had good time on the day and made some great decisions. His audible play on the day was also very solid, as has been the case all season long. Of Chandler's 11 first have completions, eight different Hawkeyes caught at least one pass. There is no quarterback controversy.
Stepping Up: Calvin Davis caught five passes for 108 yards, including a beauty from Chandler that he hauled in over his shoulder.
Drew Tate came into the game late and had a nice 17-yard gain on the ground on fourth and four in addition to hitting Matt Melloy for a 13-yard touchdown strike. Iowa ran the play-action waggle on that play and the tight end was open underneath for first down yardage. Chandler has thrown that pass all season, but Tate was looking for something more and threw a perfectly lobbed pass over the Illinois defender for the touchdown.
The offensive line looked great, the receivers looked great, Robert Gallery planted a couple of defensive backs on wide receiver screens that went for big gains, Edgar Cervantes did a great job blocking all day, Fred Russell topped the 1,000-yard mark on the season, making him just the third back in Iowa history to gain 1,000 or more yards in two seasons.
The defense held Illinois to 59 yards rushing, which is becoming rather routine for this outstanding defense. Illinois gained 265 yards unofficially on the day, with a good chunk of that yardage and all 10 Illinois points coming against the Iowa reserves.
In all, this was a near perfect game for Iowa, save the 10 penalties for more than 80 yards.
The opening 18-play, 77-yard drive that ate up nearly 10 minutes of the clock was filled with big plays and big penalties against Iowa, but the Hawkeyes sidestepped their own landmines and put seven points on the board.
Much more this afternoon and evening from Rob Howe with complete post-game quotes and notes.
Illinois Coach Ron Turner:
"I thought early we were competing and battling. When we did have a chance to make a play, though, we just didn't get it done.
I thought Dustin (Ward) has to do a better job of staying in the pocket.
(Two field goal attempts both hitting the upright) If I did see something like that happen before, I don't remember. No, I don't know if I've very seen that happen.
This team needs a win.
Everything impressed me about Iowa. They're an outstanding team. They are really good on defense and have a great running back."
Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz: "I was pleased with the way we played today. We did a lot of good things. Hopefully we can keep building forward.
Nathan (Chandler) played a real nice game. Illinois had a lot of blitzes and he handled them well. Nathan played a real smart, nice game.
The key right now is to keep everyone practicing and try to get some continuity.
It was good for Bob (Sanders) to get a touchdown. He has a knack, and he's a great defensive player."
Today's win snaps a two-game losing streak to Illinois. The Hawkeyes have now won four of the last six meetings.
Iowa's 41-10 win today marked the largest margin of victory (31 points) over Illinois since a 59-0 win in 1985 in Iowa City.
Iowa's 41 points is its second-highest scoring output this season. The Hawkeyes posted 56 points vs. Buffalo in week two.
Today was Iowa's fourth straight sellout (Arizona State, Michigan and Penn State).
The Hawkeyes have started on offense 49 of its last 51 games and 51 of 57 times under Kirk Ferentz.
Iowa's rushing defense has held its last seven opponents to under 75 yards. Illinois rushed 26 times for 59 yards today. For the season, Iowa's rushing defense averages 72.0 yards allowed.
Grant Steen and Jared Clauss did not play in today's game. Prior to today's game, Steen had started 33 straight games and played in all 45 games of his career. Clauss had started 21 straight games and 23 in his career. He had played in all 45 games of his career.
Robert Gallery has started in 40 consecutive games, the best among offensive linemen in the Big Ten.
Iowa's opening scoring drive was 18 plays in 9:06, the longest for the Hawkeyes this season. The previous best this season was 14 plays in 6:31 at Ohio State, ending in a field goal. Due to penalties, Iowa gained 98 yards on the 77-yard drive.
Today marked the first time since the game against Iowa State that the Hawkeyes scored on its first possession and scored the first points of the game.
Junior TE Tony Jackson caught his first career touchdown in the first quarter. It was his fourth reception of the year.
Today marked the second straight week that Abdul Hodge recovered a fumble (he had a 47-yard return last week against Penn State). Hodge also forced a fumble in Iowa's loss at Ohio State. He finished with a team-high nine tackles.
Iowa scored 10 points in the second quarter and 17 in the third today. The Hawkeyes have outscored their opponents 91-9 in the second quarter and 74-14 in the third quarter this year.
Iowa has won 16 of its last 18 regular season games. In addition, Iowa has won 19 of its last 21 contests in Kinnick Stadium dating back to the end of the 2000 season. The Hawkeyes have posted seven wins for the third consecutive season.
QB Nathan Chandler finished with a career high in passing yards (243) today. Chandler completed 14-23 passes and tossed one touchdown. Eight of Chandler's 14 passes were completed to eight different receivers. He has thrown at least one touchdown pass in eight of Iowa's nine games. His season total of 1,391 yards ranks 20th-best for a single season at Iowa.
RB Fred Russell finished the game with 94 yards rushing on 23 attempts. He had touchdown runs of two and 14 yards, marking the third time in his career that he has rushed for two touchdowns in a single game. For the season, he has rushed 217 times for 1,010 yards, becoming only the third Hawkeye running back to rush for 1,000 yards or more in more than one season. His career totals include 449 carries for 2,415 yards and 15 touchdowns, which ranks sixth in Iowa history.
QB Drew Tate threw his first career touchdown pass to WR Matt Melloy, who caught his second career touchdown (last week vs. Penn State was his first career score), in the fourth quarter.
WR Calvin Davis finished with career highs in receptions (5) and receiving yardage (109). His 109 yards receiving is a team season high for the season. The previous high was Maurice Borwn's 82 yards vs. Buffalo in week two.
WR Maurice Brown (2 receptions, 31 yards) returned to action after missing the last five games. FB Champ Davis (1 attempt, 0 yards) returned to action after missing six games. WR Ed Hinkel (1 reception, 23 yards) missed two of the last three contests and returned today.
PK Nate Kaeding scored 11 points today (5 PAT and 2 FG). He raised his career kick total to 327 points and 333 overall. He has converted 58-70 field goal attempts and 153-156 PATs. He is Iowa's all-time scoring leader and currently ranks fourth all-time in kick scoring in the Big Ten Conference.
Senior SS Bob Sanders forced a fumble and returned a fumble three yards for his first career touchdown. Sanders finished with three tackles (2 solo), which moves him past Mike Wells (1990-93) into 12th-place in career totals with 316.
DE Matt Roth collected six tackles (4 solo), including three sacks and one forced fumble. The three sacks matches a career-high in sacks per game for the junior (vs. Michigan State, 10/12/02). The fumble was recovered and returned for a three-yard touchdown by SS Bob Sanders in the third quarter. Roth has recorded at least one sack in 13 of Iowa's last 16 games, dating back to last year.
The Hawkeyes had two offensive drives start on the opponents' side of the field today. For the season, Iowa has started 20 offensive possessions on the other side of the 50. Iowa has had at least one offensive possession start on the other side of the 50 at least once in every game this year except its game at Michigan State in week five.