Sept. 23, 2006
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CHAMPAIGN, ILL — Grinding? Yes.
Fans of the nationally ranked University of Iowa football team can take their pick when it comes to describing the Hawkeyes’ offense against Illinois Saturday in the team’s 2006 Big Ten Conference opener.
Iowa can grind it out with the best of `em and they proved that fact again in their 24-7 victory over the Fighting Illini, the fourth in a row against Illinois – a first for the UI in the series.
The Hawkeyes turned to the rushing game 42 times for 154 net yards on the warm, humid windy day. Albert Young gained 57 yards, Damian Sims 55 and Shonn Greene 54.
“All guys worked well as a team. The run yards a coming a little harder that I’d like so far this season and it won’t get any easier next week. Ohio State always has a good defensive unit and I suspect they have one again this year,” said UI Coach Kirk Ferentz.
Balanced? Ferentz and is offensive coaching staff like balance. Always have. Always will.
Against the Illini, Drew Tate completed 17 of 27 attempts for 190 yards and a touchdown. As always, he shared the love, finding six different receivers headed by Young, who had six for 40 more yards, and Dominique Douglas, who had five receptions for 64 yards – all in the first half and all for first downs.
Explosive? For all intents and purposes, the Hawkeyes registered their first win of the 2006 league season late in the second quarter when they exploded for 21 unanswered points.
First, it was Sims, who hit paydirt on his fourth consecutive carry, a 1-yard run at the 5:55 mark that capped a six-play, 69-yard drive that opened the scoring. Next, it was Young, who scored on a six-yard run with 2:57 left to play. That play closed the book on a seven-play, 46-yard drive. Then – after an interception by defensive back Miguel Merrick – Tate found Tony Moeaki down the hashmark for a 35-yard touchdown.
“That’s a sign of a senior quarterback,” said Ed Podolak of the Hawkeye Radio Network. “He waited. He showed patience. He stepped up in the pocket and found his receiver. Poise and experience. Can’t beat it.”
Iowa beat Illinois because of its grind-it-out, diverse and, when necessary, explosive offense. But it also received a very strong performance from its punting game and kicker Andy Fenstermaker. The senior from Mt. Pleasant averaged 35.8 yards on a career-high eight kicks. Three of those efforts landed inside the Illini 20.
“He was magnificent into the wind, especially in the first quarter when the Hawkeye offense was still finding itself,” noted Podolak, who singled out Fenstermaker’s 43-yarder into the wind in the opening stanza as a “field position biggie.”
“He did a tremendous job. It wasn’t as windy today as the last time we were here, but it was a factor. He gave us a chance when we needed it,” said Iowa’s head coach.
Fans of the Hawkeyes who have a ticket for next Saturday’s game against Ohio State at historic Kinnick Stadium are reminded that it’s a “Be Bold, Wear Gold” game.
Ferentz was just plain happy to get the win because they never come easy on the road.
“It was a hard fought win. We’re 1-0 in the conference and 4-0 for the month, so we’re happy about that,” said Ferentz, who added that he’d like to see his offense and defense to start a little quicker out of the gate.
“The good news is we had a lot of guys play well, the bad news is we had a lot of guys play,” who said five or six Hawkeyes got banged up pretty good in the victory. “We’ll have to see what we see tomorrow.”
Iowa lost two takeaways to replay, but registered three interceptions, two by Adam Shada. “It was good to see us get a few,” Ferentz said of the turnovers.