IOWA CITY, Iowa — Senior Nate Stanley threw for a season-high 308 yards and the University of Iowa defense forced three turnovers, sending the No. 19/20 Hawkeyes to a 19-10 Senior Day victory over Illinois on Saturday inside Kinnick Stadium.
With eight minutes remaining and the Illini facing a third-and-2 from midfield, senior Kristian Welch jarred the ball loose from Illinois quarterback Brandon Peters and sophomore Jack Koerner recovered, giving the Hawkeyes possession at the Illini 47 with 7:46 to play.
Iowa followed with a nine-play, 36-yard scoring drive — one that milked 5:02 off the clock — to send the Hawkeyes to their eighth win.
“For us to win in Kinnick in such a hard-fought game is special,” said Stanley.
Stanley found Nico Ragaini for 9 yards and followed with an 8-yard gain on a quarterback sneak to move the ball to the Illinois 30. Stanley also converted a third-and-2 with a 6-yard yard gain on a read-option before two Tyler Goodson rushes moved the ball to the 11.
Senior Keith Duncan extended the lead to two possessions with a 29-yard field goal with 2:44 remaining — his fourth field goal of the game.
The Hawkeyes out-gained Illinois, 387-336, in the game. Stanley completed 18-of-35 attempts for 308 yards with completions to seven different receivers. Junior Ihmir Smith-Marsette had four catches for a career-high 121 yards, while redshirt freshman Tyrone Tracy, Jr., finished with six catches for 56 yards.
Iowa’s rushing attack finished with 79 yards on 32 attempts. Goodson had 21 carries for 38 yards with the Hawkeyes’ lone touchdown — a 2-yarder in the first quarter.
Welch finished with 12 tackles, including 10 solo stops, 1 1/2 tackles for loss, one sack, and a forced fumble. Senior Michael Ojemudia had eight tackles — all solo — and an interception, and junior Matt Hankins had five tackles, three pass-break-ups, and a pick.
Peters finished 16-of-31 for 125 yards and a touchdown through the air, and he had a game-high 76 rushing yards on 10 attempts.
“We’re thrilled to get the victory. It was a competitive, tough November Big Ten football game, and that’s fully what we expected coming into this thing.
“Every game in conference play is earned, every victory is earned, and every game is important, too, and I think our guys understand that and did understand that. I told them early in the week, it’s the first point I made Tuesday, this Illinois team is nothing remotely close to the one we played last year, and last year’s chain of events, just the game got away before it was ever a ballgame. We realized this was going to be a tough contest, and on top of that, it’s the seniors’ last game in Kinnick, so that’s a special thing. There were a lot of variables coming in, big plays both sides, a lot of explosive plays both sides, both ways, and then certainly some missed opportunities for both teams.
“It was representative, but Keith Duncan setting a record today, which I wasn’t aware of, but to set a Big Ten record single season, made four but also missed two, and in a lot of ways kind of representative of our football team. Keith has practiced well and he practiced well again this week. We had a really good week of practice, but we missed a couple opportunities. Keith the same way, but the good news is he fought through it and kept fighting, nailed them when we needed them, and I think our team did the same thing.
” A couple keys to the ballgame in my mind, the turnover/takeaway ratio, we knew that was going to be big coming in. They’ve done a great job with takeaways, so we ended up with three takeaways today and then the one turnover. We won that battle.
“A couple big sequences, Nate stepping out of that sack and the big play down the field, that was a great effort, and then that little flurry at the end of the half where we ended up blitzing and got the sack and then gave the offense field position to get three points before we went in the locker room. That was a really important sequence for us.
“Transitioning down to the fourth quarter, I don’t mind telling you I was thinking a little bit about the Wisconsin-Illinois game just standing there, where Wisconsin is up 20-7, 20-13, then it’s 23-14 I guess it was or whatever, and then back-and-forth. A lot of ups-and-downs in that fourth quarter. I am proud of the way our guys stayed the course, and probably as slow as we started out defensively in the second half, we finished just the opposite, and that’s when it counts is at the end.
“All-in-all, I am proud of our guys, and we have a short week in front of us, so we’ll wrap this thing up and get working on the next one.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Iowa drove 75 yards over nine plays on the game’s first possession to take an early 7-0 lead. Stanley hit Ragaini for 18 yards on third-and-10 and found Sam LaPorta for 22 yards to the Illinois 35 on the next play. On fourth-and-6, Stanley avoided pressure, rolled to his right and hit Ihmir Smith-Marsette for 29 yards to the 2. Goodson scored on the next play from 2-yards out.
- The Hawkeyes notched the game’s first turnover on Illinois’ first possession when Michael Ojemudia intercepted Peters at the Illini 44.
- Stanley zipped a 23-yard completion to Nate Wieting on first down to the 20 before three straight incompletions forced a field goal attempt. Duncan’s 43-yard attempt bounced off the left upright.
- Illinois followed with a six-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Peters ran for 22 yards on consecutive carries before hitting Donny Navarro for a 31-yard touchdown on broken coverage, tying the game at seven with 6:26 left in the first quarter.
- Iowa took a 10-7 lead on its first drive of the second quarter. Stanley found Shaun Beyer for a 40-yard gain in the seam to the Illinois 32 before Goodson reeled off a 10-yard run on the next play. A Stanley 4-yard run on a sneak gave the Hawkeyes first-and-goal from the 10, but Iowa had to settle on a Duncan 23-yard field goal.
- Illinois evened the turnover battle on Iowa’s next series. The Hawkeyes moved into Illini territory with 14-yard completion to LaPorta. On second-and-8 from the 34, Stanley airmailed Wieting and Sydney Brown intercepted the ball at the 11.
- After forcing a three-and-out, Stanley connected with Smith-Marsette for a 29-yard gain on first down to the Illini 27. Iowa’s drive stalled and the Hawkeyes came away empty when Duncan missed a 47-yard field goal attempt, wide right.
- Illinois took over at its 29 yard-line with 2:26 to play and moved the ball into Iowa territory to the 37. The Illini went for it on fourth-and-6, Iowa brought the house, and it hit. Junior Geno Stone sacked Peters for a 14-yard loss, giving the Hawkeyes possession at midfield with 12 seconds left in the half.
- The Hawkeyes capitalized when Stanley found Tracy, Jr., for a 22-yard gain to the Illini 27 with five seconds remaining. Out trotted Duncan, who connected on a 45-yard field goal to make the score 13-7 at the break.
- Illinois moved the ball on its first drive of the second half with Peters scrambling for 37 yards to the Iowa 23. On second-and-8 from the 21, Illinois attempted trickery with a flea-flicker, but Hankins stayed home and intercepted Peters in the end zone for Iowa’s second turnover.
- The Illini drove into Hawkeye territory again on their second drive of the half, moving 54 yards over 12 plays. After a 12-yard pass from Peters-to-Navarro gave the Illini a first-and-10 at the 29, Iowa’s defense stiffened. Stone blew up a pass to Navarro for a 3-yard loss on first down and A.J. Epenesa followed by stopping Dre Brown for a 4-yard loss on the next play.
- After Iowa bottled up Peters for a 3-yard gain on third-and-long, Illinois’ James McCourt missed a 51-yard field goal.
- Iowa followed with a 61-yard scoring drive to make it a two-possession game. On second-and-9 from midfield, Stanley avoided a sure sack, spun to his left and hit Smith-Marsette in stride for a 40-yard completion to the 15. The Hawkeyes moved to the 6 before Duncan made a 24-yard field goal to stretch the lead to 16-7.
- Illinois got the three points back with a 65-yard scoring drive over nine plays. The Illini had back-to-back 19 yard rushes from Dre Brown and Reggie Corbin, moving the ball to the Iowa 16, but Iowa’s defense again held. McCourt made a 28-yard field goal to cut the lead to 16-10 with 10:52 to play.
- Kirk Ferentz has 96 Big Ten Conference wins, tying Hayden Fry for No. 4 all-time in conference history.
- The win was Iowa’s eighth of the season. Iowa has five straight seasons with at least eight wins, its longest such stretch since 1981-87. Iowa has 12 seasons with eight or more wins since 1999.
- Duncan connected on four field goals today (23, 45, 24, 29) to break the Big Ten single-season record. The four made field goals ties a career high (Iowa State, Purdue). He has 27 made field goals this season, a single-season school record. His six field goal attempts today are a career-best. Duncan is 23-of-26 on field attempts this season, and 12-of-14 on field goal tries of 40-yards. Duncan has 36 career made field goals, sixth all-time.
- Welch had a team and career-high 12 tackles. Ten of the tackles were solo stops. His 12th tackle was a sack on the final play of the game. Welch has led Iowa in tackles six times this season.
- Stanley recorded his fifth career 300-yard passing game. He finished 18-of-35 for 308 yards. Eight of Stanley’s 18 completions were 20-yards or more, including all four completions to wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette. Stanley’s first five completions were at least 18 yards.
- Stone’s sack in the second quarter was the first of his career. Stone is the only Hawkeye this season to have at least one sack, one interception, one pass breakup, on forced fumble, and one recovered fumble.
- Smith-Marsette had a career-high 121 receiving yards on four receptions. It is his second career 100-yard receiving game, and second this season (Rutgers, 113).
- Ojemudia and Hankins recorded interceptions. It is the second multi-interception game for Iowa this season (Rutgers, 2). Ojemudia matched his career-high with eight tackles.
- Iowa had three takeaways. Illinois had one. It is the first time this season the Illini had fewer than two takeaways in a game.
- Saturday’s attendance was 58,331, the lowest in a Big Ten game at Kinnick Stadium since Nov. 11, 2019 against Northwestern (54,345)
Iowa closes out the regular season Nov. 29, traveling to Lincoln to face Nebraska in a Hy-Vee Heroes Game matchup in Memorial Stadium.