PLAYER OF THE GAME
Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras
After a pretty rough start for the sophomore, during which he underthrew multiple receivers and was sacked twice in the game’s first 18 minutes, Petras found his form behind an offensive line that started providing more and more protection. Petras finished 18 of 28 for 220 passing yards and three touchdowns, spearheading a comeback after Illini led 14-0 early.
Iowa: B | Illinois: C+
If one were to look only at the first quarter and a bit of the second, these grades probably would be “F” and “A.” But that’s why they play four quarters. The Hawkeyes slowly began chipping away as the second quarter went on, and the floodgates opened after halftime. Illini quarterback Isaiah Williams looked all right in mop-up time. The absence of running back Mike Epstein for unknown reasons certainly didn’t help Illinois.
Iowa: B- | Illinois: C-
Take the Illini’s grade with a pretty sizable grain of salt: the losses of Jamal Woods, Khalan Tolson and Nate Hobbs to injury. A stout defensive effort was almost nonexistent for much of the second half, allowing the Hawkeyes to pile up 424 yards and leave Memorial Stadium with their fifth straight win. Iowa didn’t stop the run as well as it normally does (149 yards allowed) but held Brandon Peters to only 116 passing yards.
Iowa: A | Illinois: D
It was a rare off day for Illini punter Blake Hayes, who averaged 4 fewer yards on his seven punts than he has all season (38 versus 42.1). That, combined with Hayes kicking from well into his team’s territory on multiple occasions, led to Iowa starting three drives near midfield. Kerby Joseph also had a costly 15-yard kick interference penalty that led to a field from Iowa’s Keith Duncan, who connected from 40 yards and 27 yards.
Iowa B+ | Illinois C-
The Hawkeyes clearly made some adjustments, both in-game and during halftime, that allowed them to take control during the second quarter and speed away in the second half. The Illini’s offensive playcalling left something to be desired, especially watching Iowa take advantage of tight ends Sam LaPorta and Shaun Beyer (combined nine catches for 115 yards) and Illinois routinely struggling after the first quarter.
Iowa B | Illinois C-
Lovie Smith’s Illini were definitely in “A+” territory through about 20 game minutes. That track trended downhill precipitously and never recovered, as Illinois couldn’t make enough adjustments to Iowa’s defense and injuries to its own defensive unit. This was a grind-it-out Hawkeyes victory that is plenty common in the Kirk Ferentz era as the dean of college coaches improved to 5-0 against Smith.
Colin Likas is the preps coordinator at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @clikasNG.