Nov. 15, 2014
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By JAMES ALLAN
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The University of Iowa football team tallied its seventh win of the season by racking up a season-high 587 yards in a 30-14 victory at Illinois on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
The Hawkeyes (7-3 overall, 4-2 in Big Ten) have scored 30 or more points in four Big Ten Conference games for the first time since 2002. Iowa’s 587 yards of offense is the fourth-highest total under UI head coach Kirk Ferentz.
“It was good that we looked more like an Iowa football team today,” said Ferentz. ” That means our defense has to be playing well, we run the ball with success, and get the balls to the tight ends and everyone else. Hopefully this is a step forward because we have another big test coming up next weekend.”
Iowa’s offense was balanced, finishing with 304 rushing yards and 283 passing yards. The Hawkeyes converted 10-of-15 third downs (but went 0-for-3 on fourth down) en route to 26 first downs and an 11-plus minute advantage in time of possession (35:46-24:14).
Senior Mark Weisman finished with a season-best 134 yards — his ninth career 100-yard game and first since 2013 — on 23 carries, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Junior Jordan Canzeri had 68 yards on 12 attempts after missing the past two games because of injury. Junior Jake Rudock completed 14-of-21 attempts for 210 yards and two touchdowns.
Junior tight end Jake Duzeyled the Iowa passing attack, making three catches for 110 yards. Fellow tight end Ray Hamiton had a team-best four catches for 20 yards and two touchdowns — the first two of his career.
“It was good to get all the tight ends involved,” said Ferentz. “We’re a better football team when we can spread it around a little bit. Jake had a couple of nice receptions as well, and I’m happy for Ray to get a couple of touchdowns.”
Defensively, the Hawkeyes limited Illinois to 235 yards and 12 first downs. The Illini passing attack, which entered the game averaging 313 yards per game, had 147 yards and the Illinois rushing attack churned out only 88 yards. Senior John Lowdermilk and junior Nate Meier led Iowa with seven tackles apiece, and six players had at least five stops.
Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt completed 14-of-25 passes for 102 yards with one touchdown, while Reilly O’Toole went 3-for-6 for 45 yards and a score. Freshman wide receiver Mike Dudek caught six passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns.
After turning the ball over on downs deep in Illinois territory — at the 23 — on their first possession of the second half, Iowa’s offense reeled off three-consecutive scoring drives to turn a 9-7 advantage into a 30-7 lead.
“It is a matter of finishing, whether it is a game or whatever you’re doing,” said Ferentz. “The biggest play that sparked us when Tevaun (Smith) made a big third down catch right in front of our bench. It seems like we were doing good, doing good, and then something would stall out. When you do enough of that, it starts to get you nervous about things.”
Iowa’s rushing attack paved the way for the first drive — one that covered 71 yards over 10 plays. After a pair of Canzeri rushes started the series, Rudock connected with senior Kevonte Martin-Manley for 17 yards to midfield. Iowa then handed off four-straight times for 37 yards, including a 15-yarder to Canzeri to the Illinois 11. Two plays later, Rudock audibled at the line before finding Hamilton for a 6-yard touchdown pass to make the score 16-7 with 2:56 left in the third quarter.
The Hawkeyes pushed their lead to 23-7, moving 66 yards over seven plays. On third-and-3 from the Illinois 44, Rudock connected with junior Tevaun Smith for a 21-yard strike. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Canzeri ran for 14 yards to the Illinois 9 before Rudock scored on a boot leg from 6 yards out two plays later.
Sophomore C.J. Beathard led Iowa on its third-straight touchdown drive, guiding the offense 86 yards over seven plays on its second to last possession. Beathard connected with Duzey for 53 yards on second-and-7, moving the ball to the Illinois 20. Three plays later, senior Damond Powell climbed the ladder for a 19-yard touchdown reception, extending the Iowa advantage to 30-7.
With back-up quarterback Reilly O’Toole under center, Illinois scored its lone touchdown of the second half courtesy of a 12-play, 89 yard drive. The Illini converted two third downs and one fourth down on a series which ended in a 31-yard touchdown pass to Mike Dudek following a double move.
The Hawkeyes dominated the first half, but managed to take only a 9-7 lead into the locker room. Iowa nearly tripled Illinois in total offense, 294-108, in the opening 30 minutes, but the Hawkeyes had two turnover on downs and had a first-quarter fumble, which led to Illinois’ lone first-half touchdown.
Iowa moved down the field effortlessly on its first drive, moving 68 yards on its first four plays to the Illini 8. Rudock connected with fullback Mason Plewa on second-and-4 for an 18-yard gain to midfield before the Hawkeyes reeled off consecutive runs of 20 yards by Jonathan Parker and 23 from Weisman to the 8.
Iowa handed the ball to Weisman four-straight plays, but Illinois stood firm, keeping the Hawkeyes out of the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 1. It was the first time this season Weisman didn’t convert on a fourth-and-1 attempt.
Iowa’s defense kept the field position battle in the Hawkeyes’ favor, and that eventually led to Iowa’s first points. After missing an opportunity to capitalize on a drive that started on the Illini 36, the defense sent Illinois backwards.
On third-and-14 from the 3, Lunt threw the ball away with Louis Trinca-Pasat bearing down, where he was flagged for intentional grounding, which resulted in a safety, giving Iowa a 2-0 lead. It was the Hawkeyes’ first safety since the 2010 season.
The Illini were beneficiaries of an Iowa mistake on the ensuing drive. After taking over at its own 22, Weisman had a pair of rushes for 16 yards to the Iowa 38. On first down, Rudock fumbled a snap on the center exchange, where it bounced to Illinois’ Jihad Ward, who recovered at the Iowa 34.
The Illini capitalized, needing just three plays to notch the go-ahead touchdown to take a 7-2 lead. On third-and-7, Lunt threw a perfect strike to Mike Dudek for a 31-yard touchdown with 2:29 remaining in the opening quarter.
On its first drive of the second quarter, Iowa’s tight ends came to life, leading the Hawkeyes on a five-play, 67-yard scoring drive. On first-and-10 from its own 33, Duzey made a 43-yard concentration reception from on a ball he picked off his leg to the Illinois 23.
Duzey followed with a 13-yard reception on the next play to the 13, and two plays later, Rudock found Hamilton by himself in the end zone off play action for a 1-yard touchdown strike. The touchdown was the first of Hamilton’s career.
Iowa drove into Illinois territory on its final two first-half possessions, but came away empty handed on both trips. The Hawkeyes couldn’t convert a fourth-and-2 from the Illinois 22 with 6 1/2 minutes left in the quarter, and on the final drive before the break, Iowa moved 60 yards over eight plays, but junior Marshall Koehn’s 46-yard field goal missed, hitting the right upright as time expired.
The Hawkeyes return to action Saturday, hosting No. 20 Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium. Game time and television information has yet to be announced.