Oct. 13, 2007
IOWA CITY — Pick on Brett Greenwood once, shame on him. Pick on Grenwood twice, shame on you.
Greenwood a freshman free safety who slipped during pass coverage last week allowing an easy Penn State touchdown, was the hero at historic Kinnick Stadium this afternoon, intercepting an Eddie McGee pass in the Iowa end zone with 1-minute 12-seconds left to preserve a 10-6 Hawkeye victory.
Iowa snapped an eight-game Big Ten losing skid and improved to 3-4 overall, 1-3 in the conference. The No. 18 Illini slipped to 5-2, 3-1.
Talk about a collective black and gold effort — Jake Christensen played his best game of the season, the Iowa offensive line created holes and offered pass protection, Albert Young and Damian Sims bulled their way through the Illinois defense, the young Iowa receivers came up with big catches and the Iowa defense played like — well, the Iowa defense.
When the clock reached 0:00, Iowa fans raced onto the field to congratulate their gridiron stars and Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz improved to 4-0 all-time against Illinois Coach Ron Zook. It was the fifth straight win for the Hawkeyes against Illinois and marked the first time since Nov. 20, 2004 that Iowa defeated a ranked opponent at home (30-7).
“I’m very, very pleased for our players,” Ferentz said.”I can’t say enough about our seniors. We’re getting tremendous leadership — certainly Humpal on defense and Albert Young has been doing a great job.”
Iowa’s offense and coordinator Ken O’Keefe deserve credit for keeping the Illini off-balance all afternoon to the tune of 21 first downs, 323 total yards and nearly a 10-minute advantage in possession time. Young (99 yards) and Sims (45) combined for 144 yards on the ground and Christensen completed 17 of 25 passes for 182 yards and a 20-yard touchdown to tight end Brandon Myers. Defensively, linebacker Mike Humpal recorded 18 tackles with a sack, 2 ½ for a loss and a fumble recovery. Cornerback Adam Shada was in on 10 stops with a pass break-up.
“We improved during the course of the week,” Ferentz said. “We moved the ball today and that was a very positive step.”
Illinois covered just 39 yards on 10 plays on its first possession and opened the game’s scoring with a 46-yard field goal by Jason Reda with 4:42 left in the first period. The Illini counter-punched after an impressive beginning by Iowa, which took the opening kickoff and marched 50 yards on 12 plays, but couldn’t covert on fourth-and-8 from the Illinois 33. Young carried the bulk of the load for the Hawkeyes with four rushes for 19 yards and three pass receptions for 20 more. Iowa was 2-for-3 on third downs during the drive.
The first series was a mere preview of what would come from Young. He carried the ball four straight times for 31 yards on the seconds possession before giving way to Sims. The first two possessions by the Hawkeyes were similar — when they moved the chains, they did so on first down as well. The first two drives stalled only after Iowa was forced into second-and-long situations. The first hit a snag when Christensen was sacked for a 10-yard loss; the second when Sims was pulled down for a loss of two.
Iowa out-gained the Illini 96-54 during the first 15 minutes and won the first down battle, 6-3, but couldn’t get on the board and trailed 3-0. Young rushed for 50 yards on eight carries during that span.
“We improved during the course of the week. We moved the ball today and that was a very positive step.”
Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz
After a defensive stand, the Hawkeyes again went to work offensively. On first down, Christensen spotted Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, who collided with an Illinois defender well in advance of the ball. That gave Iowa a first down by pass interference penalty at its own 35. Eventually faced with third-and-10, Christensen threw a beautiful strike to Brandon Myers for 15 yards to midfield and the Hawkeyes moved the chains again. Deprived of a catch because of the penalty earlier, Johnson-Koulianos returned to haul in a 14-yarder on third down which put the ball at the Illini 33. Even though a sack of Christensen took Iowa out of field goal range, a spectacular special teams play by the Hawkeyes made things miserable for Illinois. A punt by Ryan Donahue bounced inside the 10 and was downed by Bradley Fletcher, at the Illini 4.
Charles Godfrey and Humpal came up with a big third down stop on the ensuing Illinois drive. Faced with third-and-2, the Illini attempted an option to the left side of the field, but Daniel Dufrene was smothered to the turf for a loss of three. That set the stage for more offensive firepower for Iowa. The Hawkeyes continued to roll toward the Illinois goal and were aided by a 15-yard pass completion for Christensen to Paul Chaney, Jr., who absorbed a big hit and held onto the ball at the Illinois 40. Two plays later, Sims gained eight yards on a rush to the Illinois 27. After the play Illini strong safety Kevin Mitchell was whistled for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that put the ball at the Illinois 13. A holding penalty by the Hawkeyes moved the ball back to the 23, but Christensen completed a toss to Johnson-Koulianos on first down for 13 yards. Iowa kicker Daniel Murray knotted the score, 3-3, with a 28-yard field goal with 26 seconds left before intermission.
Iowa dominated the first half offensively, picking up 170 yards on 41 plays and controlling nearly 19 minutes of the clock. The Hawkeyes earned 13 first downs and converted 6 of 10 times on third down and scored three points on their only trip inside the Red Zone.
Illinois closed the yardage gap on its first drive of the second half, consuming more than six minutes with a 12-play, 74-yard drive that concluded with a 23-yard field goal by Reda. The big play was a 33-yard pass completion from Isiah Williams to Arrelious Benn. A tip of the hat goes to the Iowa defense, which kept the Illini out of the end zone on three consecutive plays on a drive that began at the Iowa 2. The defense was superb on the next series as well. Humpal and Shada stopped Williams for a 1-yard loss; Bryan Mattison stopped Rashard Mendenhall for a 1-yard gain and then the entire Hawkeye defensive front flushed Williams out of the pocket and forced him to throw the ball away.
The Illini’s 6-3 lead was short-lived. Iowa received its best starting field position after Colin Sandeman called for a fair catch at the Illini 46 with 4:39 left in the third period. A steady diet of Young runs and a reception took the ball to the Illinois 24, where it was faced with fourth-and-1. Although a sneak by Christensen was not enough to move the chains on third down, he was not denied on fourth down, setting up first down from the 23. The Hawkeyes took their first lead of the game with six seconds left in the third period when Christensen remained in the pocket and hit a wide-open Myers for a 20-yard touchdown. Murrays’ PAT made it 10-6, Iowa.
“Our focus has been forward,” Ferentz said.
Then it was time for a defensive tussle and a bit of finger-crossing.
The two Iowa defensive captains came up with one of the plays of the game as the Illini attempted to drive for the go-ahead score. Illinois had first-and-5 from the Iowa 49 when Williams was chased from the pocket. Mattison forced a fumble and Humpal recovered at the Iowa 46. Christensen then loosened up the Illinois defense when he completed a 29-yard pass to Chaney at the Illini 29. Sims ran for 18 yards on three carries before the Hawkeyes turned the ball over. On first-and-10 from the 11, a mishandled snap was recovered by the Illini.
An ineligible receiver penalty against Illinois negated an 83-yard scoring toss from Eddie McGee (who replaced Williams at quarterback) to Joe Morgan. The Illini would not see the end zone the rest of the game, but they came close. McGee directed Illinois on a 5-play drive from its own 29 to the Iowa 11, before Greenwood sealed the Hawkeye victory with the interception in the end zone. Young picked up a first down on two carries and the Illini could not stop the clock.
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