Oct. 28, 2006
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IOWA CITY — Another sellout crowd of 70,583 fans – the 23rd straight sellout of historic Kinnick Stadium – watched the future of University of Iowa football Saturday while enjoying the present for the Hawkeyes.
Red-shirt freshman quarterback Jake Christensen completed 19 of 30 passes for 256 yard and a pair of touchdowns, including a 10-yard strike to tight end Scott Chandler on a fourth-and-4 that secured the Hawkeyes a 27-14 victory over Northern Illinois — its sixth of the season — and bowl-eligibility for the sixth consecutive season.
Christensen, a highly-touted left-hander from Lockport, Ill., looked impressive in his first start as a collegian. He guided the Hawkeyes to 405 total yards, threw for a pair of touchdown, handed off another to Albert Young, and, generally speaking, played better than many highly-touted freshman quarterbacks play in their debut outing.
“Jake did a nice job of keeping his composure. They threw a few things at him and us that they hadn’t shown a lot prior to today,” said UI Coach Kirk Ferentz about his rookie signal-caller. “I give them credit. They knew our guy would be inexperienced and really threw some curves at him.”
“When you prepare the way our coaches prepare us, it’s pretty easy to go out there and have a good day. The line was great,” said Christensen.
Iowa’s freshman quarterback will be the talk of the town, but Young had a great day, averaging five yards a career en route to a season-high 124 total yards on the ground and another 23 on three receptions.
Iowa became bowl eligible for the sixth consecutive season with its victory Saturday at Kinnick over Northern Illinois. “Now we work on improving, winnning games and climbing the (bowl game) ladder,” said UI Coach Kirk Ferentz.
Chandler was Christensen’s top target. The senior tight end had five catches for 63 yards. “Scott made a great job of getting free in the end zone and the line a good job of giving us time on that last one,” said Christensen.
“You like to see the older guys step up at big times and that’s exactly what Scott did on the fourth-quarter pass. That was a very nice catch and a huge play.”
Dominique Douglas, Young and Andy Brodell each had three grabs. Among Brodell’s catches was a 35-yarder that gave Iowa a new set of downs on NIU’s 31-yard line in the game-clinching drive.
Iowa’s defense was stout, extremely stout, in fact, during the first 30 minutes when it limited the visiting Huskies to just one first down and nine total yards of rushing. And, while NIU was able to put 14 points on the board in the final stanza, the second touchdown was the result of two personal fouls calls on third down plays that would have force NIU in fourth and long.
For the game, the Hawkeyes limited Garrett Wolfe, the nation’s top rusher, to just 66 yards on 22 carries and the Huskies to just 73 net yards rushing. NIU quarterback Phil Horvath completed 15 of 30 passes for 123 yards and one touchdown. However, the Hawkeyes’ picked off two of Horvath’s strikes including one late in the fourth that officially closed the door on NIU’s sixth visit to Kinnick.
“Our defense came to play and, with the exception of that second touchdown drive when we pretty much gift-wrapped it with the penalties, they were solid all day,” Ferentz said.
Iowa opened the scoring with four minutes left to play in the opening quarter on a seven-yard touchdown run by Young that completed a 10-play, 7-minute drive.
Kyle Schlicher stretched the lead to 10-0 with a 38-yard field goal early in the second quarter. The lead reached 17-0 when Douglas stretched for a six-yard score with 18 seconds to play.
“The only thing we’re out of is the Big Ten championship. There’s a lot more to accomplish and this win will help us push forward through November,” Ferentz said when asked about becoming bowl eligible again.
“We have the opportunity to do some great things before the book is closed on this season. This win is big, but, if we can continue to clean things up, there’s perhaps bigger achievements available for this group of Hawkeyes,” Iowa’s head coach added.
Iowa returns to Kinnick Stadium next Saturday for an 11 a.m. (Iowa time) date with Northwestern.