By IlliniGuys Staff
October 8, 2022
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- If you expected an old-fashioned Big Ten game dominated by defense, you weren't disappointed.
Backup kicker Fabrizio Pinton hit his third field goal of the night from 36 yards out with 2:49 remaining in the game and the Illinois defense came up big to give the Illini a hard-fought 9-6 victory over rival Iowa. But even that wasn't without drama.
Quarterback Art Sitkowski, playing in place of an injured Tommy DeVito, fumbled the ball on a quarterback keeper on a 3rd down play with 3:01 left and Riley Moss returned it 81 yards for the apparent go-ahead touchdown for Iowa. But a review showed Sitkowski's elbow was down before the fumble and the play was overturned. Pinton drilled the field goal on the next play.
On the ensuing drive, Seth Coleman hit Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras' arm as he was attempting a pass and freshman Matthew Bailey intercepted the fluttering pass. The Hawkeyes (3-3, 1-2) got the ball back, but the Illinois defense held again.
The win keeps Illinois (5-1, 2-1) in a first-place tie atop the Big Ten's West Division along with Nebraska and Purdue, two teams the Illini will play later this season.
The win wasn't easy, nor was it without a cost.
After remaining mostly healthy through the first five games, the Illini suffered a slew of injuries in this one. DeVito left the game late in the first quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. Defensive back Taz Nicholson, wide receivers Isaiah Williams and Jonah Morris, and tight end Michael Marchese also left the game due to injury.
That's not including the apparent groin injury to starting kicker Caleb Griffin. The Danville, Illinois product was a no-go before the game and that opened the door for Pinton, a redshirt freshman who had never attempted a kick in a college game before Saturday night.
Chase Brown, the nation's leading rusher coming in with 733 yards, ran for 146 yards on 31 carries to extend his school record seven straight 100-yard rushing games.
Coleman was disruptive all night. The sophomore recorded two of Illinois' five sacks and had four quarterback hurries to lead a defensive front that dominated the Iowa offensive line all night.
Overall, the Illini defense continues to establish itself as one of the nation's best. Illinois was allowing an FBS-best 8.4 ppg and that number will only improve. Going back to the last-minute touchdown they allowed at Indiana back on September 1st, Illinois has now allowed only 19 points - and just one touchdown - in their last four games. Three of those opponents were Power 5 teams.
Illinois head coach Bret Bielema and the entire Illinois athletic department made a week-long push to pack Memorial Stadium, an historic venue that hasn't been sold out since 2018. They came up short on that but did see 44,910 in the house for the largest crowd since Bielema took over the program after the 2020 season.
It's Illinois' first win over Iowa since 2008 and marks the first time they've beaten the Hawkeyes and Wisconsin in the same season since 1989. At 5-1, they're off to their best start since opening the 2011 season 6-0 in Ron Zook's last campaign in Champaign. Illinois has now won five straight home games and are 8-3 in their last 11 games overall.
The Illini return to action next Saturday when Minnesota visits on Homecoming weekend (11am, BTN).
Stay with IlliniGuys.com for more postgame coverage.
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