IOWA CITY, Iowa – Senior Charlie Jones energized Kinnick Stadium with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first quarter to jumpstart the 17th-ranked University of Iowa football team in a 33-23 victory over Illinois on Senior Day Saturday.
The Hawkeyes trailed 10-0 before Jones’ 100-yard kickoff return – the fourth 100-yarder in school history — gave Iowa a jolt. The Hawkeyes outscored the Illini, 26-13, the rest of the way to improve to 9-2 overall and 6-2 in Big Ten play.
“It was electric,” said junior Alex Padilla of Jones’ return. “We needed that. Down 10-0, that’s not how we wanted to start the game.”
100 YARDS TO THE HOUSE 🏠🙌
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 20, 2021
Along with Jones on special teams, senior Caleb Shudak accounted for 12 points, making 4-of-5 field goals in the contest, making from 51, 48, 29 and 30. His only miss was a 57-yarder late in the first half. The four field goals were a career high.
Illinois out-gained the Hawkeyes, 312-255, in the game, but Iowa found the end zone in all three phases, after a Jack Campbell 32-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter capped Iowa’s scoring.
Junior Tyler Goodson notched his second 100-yard game of the season, rushing for 132 yards on 27 attempts and redshirt freshman Gavin Williams rushed for 56 yards on 10 carries. Freshman Arland Bruce VI scored in the rushing attack for the second time this season.
Sophomore Alex Padilla completed 6-of-17 attempts for 83 yards in the game. Bruce VI and Nico Ragaini combined for four catches for 65 yards.
Defensively, the Hawkeyes forced two turnovers in the game – interceptions from Dane Belton and Campbell. Belton’s pick was his Big Ten-leading fifth interception of the season. The Hawkeyes limited Illinois to 64 rushing yards; the Illini entered the game averaging 180.2 rushing yards per contest.
Campbell also led the team with eight tackles (four solo) and one quarterback hurry, while junior Seth Benson had seven tackles (two solo) and two pass breakups.
QUOTING COACH FERENTZ
“I am proud of our players and their effort and am happy for them to get the victory today. We couldn’t have gotten off to a much worse start. Those guys took the ball right down the field on us, got a touchdown. Then we drove it out there midfield, a little past I think. Then that punt. Obviously, Tory didn’t play baseball in Australia. It would be great if the snap was a little bit better, too. It was kind of a sinking feeling over there.
“Defense came in and got a stop there and put it down 10-0. That’s hardly the way anybody wants to start a football game. Then we got a huge spark play by Charlie after that. It was something LeVar Woods thought we might be able to execute. I think they’d only given up four returns or had four returns against them this year because that kicker is so good. So just a real credit to LeVar and Charlie with his execution and the guys did a good job blocking. That really got us back in the game.
“In a nutshell, we knew they’d come in here ready to go. Last two times on the road, they’ve beaten good teams in their stadiums. They’ve been playing good football in general and good defense in the Big Ten. So a lot of respect for them and then certainly just playing November football wasn’t going to be easy. That’s exactly the way it played out.
“You know, it was a good way for our seniors to finish out their career in Kinnick. That was special for them to get the victory. I’d hate to have it go any other way.
“It just seemed like it was a game of missed opportunities in a lot of ways. A lot of things that we left out there. We weren’t clean enough. The example I gave you right there is certainly part of that.
The passing game, we dropped what seemed like at least three balls. I don’t know if they were perfect throws, but when you don’t make those catches and keep the chains going, everything just felt kind of herky-jerky there.
“Anyway, the good news is I think we ran the ball more a little bit more effectively. I felt like our line gained ground in the last three weeks, both in practice and in the three games. I think that’s helped us move forward as a football team get off the mat after those two losses as well.
“Then certainly the special teams. We missed some opportunities, like I just mentioned. We had a chance for a plus 50 punt there in the second half down in there and couldn’t do it. Then, conversely, a lot of really good things out there, too. All three specialists I think overall did a good job. Charlie, Caleb has just been fantastic and today was no exception there and then Tory did a good job with the punt game. I am happy about that.
“We are thrilled to be 9-2 right now. We still have one big game left here in November. It’s a short week. So just like the last three games, it’s going to be a tough challenge, but we’ll turn our sights to that tomorrow morning, but enjoy the victory right now.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Illinois took the opening kickoff 75 yards over 12 plays on the game’s first possession to take a 7-0 lead. The Illini converted three third downs on the series – a Brandon Peters’ 5-yard run on third-and-3, a 17-yard pass from Peters to Casey Washington on third-and-6 and a 9-yard pass to Chase Brown to the Iowa 16. On second-and-7 from the 13, Peters hit Luke Ford wide open in the seam for a 13-yard touchdown to put Illinois on top.
- The Hawkeyes drove into Illini territory on their opening drive before sending Tory Taylor in to punt on fourth-and-3 from the Illini 43. A low snap went through Taylor’s legs and rolled to the Iowa 28 for a 29-yard loss, giving Illinois a first-and-10.
- Iowa’s defense held and it was the beneficiary of a 15-yard tripping penalty on first down. The Illini got the penalty yards back on a 15-yard Isaiah Williams rush before settling on a 46-yard James McCourt field goal that pushed the Illinois lead to 10-0 with 3:20 left in the first quarter.
- Iowa’s special teams gave the Hawkeyes a spark on the ensuing kickoff when Jones caught the kickoff at the goal line and he was sprung for the 100-yard kickoff return by a Henry Marchese block, cutting the score to 10-7. It was the fourth 100-yard kickoff in school history.
- After forcing a three-and-out, Jones gave Iowa strong field position with a 22-yard punt return to midfield. The Hawkeyes went 50 yards over seven plays to take a 14-10 lead. Bruce IV ran for 13 yards on first down, Williams gained 12 more and Padilla followed with a 28-yard completion to Bruce IV along the Iowa sideline to the 8 on the final play of the first quarter. On third-and-2, Bruce IV scored on a jet sweep, where he bulldozed Devin Witherspoon at the goal line for this third touchdown of the season.
- Iowa scored for a second straight possession, going 58 yards over 11 plays. After starting at its own 9, Goodson burst for a 23-yard run on first down and Padilla connected with Ragaini on back-to-back completions for 8 and 12 yards to the Illinois 44. After moving to the Illinois 30, Iowa pushed its lead to 17-10 courtesy of a 51-yard field goal from Caleb Shudak.
- Illinois answered with an eight-play, 48-yard scoring drive on its ensuing possession. The drive was fueled by back-to-back 20-yard completions to Donny Navarro and Williams, moving the ball to the Iowa 35. The Hawkeyes defense held, forcing consecutive Peters incompletions before McCourt hit a 45-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 17-13 with 3:13 left in the half.
- The Hawkeyes took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove 42 yards over 11 plays to push their lead to 20-13. Iowa ran the first nine plays of the series, moving to the Illinois 30 before Ragaini dropped a third down competition that would have moved the chains. Shudak connected from 48 yards out for his second field goal of the game.
- Illinois closed the gap to 20-16 with a five-play, 45-yard scoring drive. Following a false start to open the series, Peters connected with Washington for a 44-yard pass on a stop-and-go route along the Iowa sidelines, moving the ball to the Iowa 41. The Illini advanced the ball to the 35 before McCourt connected on a 53-yard field goal.
- Illinois was flagged for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on a 41-yard Blake Hayes, giving Iowa a first-and-10 from the Illini 17. Iowa attempted a reverse pass on the first play of the drive and Illinois was flagged for half the distance penalty via a roughing the passer. After two rushes for -2 yards and an incomplete pass, Shudak connected from 29 yards out to push the Iowa lead to 23-16 with 9:53 remaining.
- Illinois forced a turnover with seven minutes remaining when Kerby Joseph picked off a Padilla pass at midfield. After Peters one-hopped a throw to Carlos Sandy on first down, two Chase Brown runs set up a fourth-and-3. On fourth down, Peters went to Ford on a short out route, but the pass was dropped, giving Iowa possession at its own 46.
- The Hawkeyes leaned on the ground game, moving 43 yards over seven plays. Goodson sprung for 21 to the Illinois 21 and Williams followed with a 16-yard gain to the 13. After three runs netted two yards, Shudak’s fourth field goal – a 30-yarder – pushed Iowa’s advantage to 26-16 with 1:55 left.
- Iowa’s defense put an exclamation point on the Hawkeye victory when Campbell intercepted a tipped Peters pass at the Illinois 32 and returned it for the touchdown, extending the Hawkeye lead to 33-16 with 1:36 remaining.
- Illinois needed just five plays to move 75 yards to cut the lead to 33-23. Peters had a 45-yard competition to Pat Bryant and a 24-yarder to Tip Reiman to the Iowa 16 before hitting Williams for a 16-yard touchdown with 31 seconds to play.
- Jones returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. The return ties a school record. He is this fourth player in program history to return a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. Jones’s previous career long was 77 yards. The last Hawkeye to return a kickoff for a touchdown was Ihmir Smith-Marsette (98 yards vs. USC at 2019 Holiday Bowl).
- 100-yard kickoff returns: Charlie Jones vs. Illinois, 11/20/2021, C.J. Jones vs. USC, 1/2/2003, Joe Williams vs. Notre Dame, 11/25/1961 (at Kinnick Stadium), George Rice at Purdue, 10/6/1951
- Jones is just the third player in school history to return both a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns in a career. (Jones returned a punt 54 yards for a touchdown vs. Michigan State in 2020). The others include C.J. Jones (100 kickoff, 65 punt) and Kahlil Hill (two kickoffs: 90, 88; two punts: 62, 57).
- Goodson rushed 27 times for 132 yards, his eighth career 100-yard game. Goodson has been Iowa’s leading rusher for 14 straight games, the longest streak by a Hawkeye since Ladell Betts was Iowa’s top rusher for 37 straight games from 1998-2001. Betts is now Iowa’s running backs coach.
- Goodson has 2,345 career rushing yards, 10th all-time in program history. He passed Shonn Greene (2,228) and Ronnie Harmon (2,271) on Iowa’s all-time career rushing list.
- Bruce IV made his first career start. He is the 31st true freshman in the Ferentz era to start, and third this season (OL Connor Colby, WR Keagan Johnson). Bruce had a career-long 28-yard reception to set up a 2-yard touchdown rush in the second quarter. The touchdown was the third of his career (second rushing).
- Iowa started two true freshman wide receivers in a game for the first time in the Ferentz era. WR Keagan Johnson made his seventh career start. WR Arland Bruce made his first career start.
- Shudak connected on a career-high four field goals (51, 48, 29, 32). Shudak tied his career-long with a 51-yard field goal in the second quarter. He has three field goals of 50-yards or better this season.
- Belton had an interception in the second quarter, his fifth of the year, best in the Big Ten.
- Campbell intercepted a pass and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown, his first of the season and second of his career.
- Iowa leads the country in interceptions (21) and ranks third nationally in takeaways (26). The Hawkeyes have 85 interception since 2017, more than any team in the country. Eleven different Hawkeyes have at least one interception this season. Iowa is plus-18 in turnover margin in its nine wins and minus-six in its two losses.
- Senior defensive back Matt Hankins did not play. He had started 37 consecutive games.
- Iowa has won at least six conference games in three straight years for the first time under Kirk Ferentz (18 wins). The last time Iowa won at least six conference games in three straight seasons was 1981-83 (19 wins).
- Iowa has won eight in a row and seven straight at home against Illinois. Illinois’ last win at Kinnick Stadium was in 1999 (40-24), Kirk Ferentz’s first year as Iowa’s head coach. Illinois’ last win in the series was a 27-24 victory in Champaign in 2008.
- Iowa’s offense completed six passes, its fewest since Oct. 27, 2007 (34-27 win vs. Michigan State.
- Iowa scored on offense, defense and special teams today. It is the first time scoring in all three phases since the 2019 Holiday Bowl (Smith-Marsette kickoff return, N. Niemann interception return)
The Hawkeyes return to action at Nebraska on Nov. 26 at Kinnick Stadium. Kickoff for that game is at 12:30 p.m. (CT) on BTN.