November 20, 2021
(Cover photo courtesy Hawk Central)
IOWA CITY, Ia. -- Illinois jumped out to a 10-0 lead, but managed just a pair of field goals until late in the fourth quarter as #18 Iowa rallied to a 33-23 victory to keep their hopes alive for a Big Ten West Division crown and a trip to the conference championship game.
Illinois was playing the game without Bret Bielema. The first-year coach and former Iowa defensive lineman tested positive for COVID-19 Monday night and has been quarantining in his home all week. He is hopeful to be cleared to rejoin the team later next week and be on the sideline next Saturday for the regular season finale against Northwestern at Memorial Stadium. Associate head coach George McDonald stepped into his shoes and called the shots in his absence.
For the second game in a row, the Illini (4-7, 3-5) were the dominant team in the first quarter. Quarterback Brandon Peters hit a wide-open tight end Luke Ford, who took it in for the score on the game's opening drive and a 7-0 lead. After an errant snap on a 4th down punt play gave Illinois the ball back on the Iowa 28-yard line, James McCourt drilled a 46-yard field goal and a 10-0 lead. The ten points equaled the number of first quarter points the Illinois offense had scored the entire season.
But Charlie Jones took the ensuing kickoff an Iowa record 100 yards for the Hawkeyes' first touchdown of the game to put the home team on the board for the first time and steal the momentum away from Illinois. After getting four first downs on that opening drive, Illinois managed just seven more first downs the rest of the game.
Peters completed 16 of his 36 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns, but was intercepted twice. The second of those was returned 32 yards by Jack Campbell late in the 4th quarter for Iowa's final touchdown of the day. Illinois closed the game with a Peters to Isaiah Williams 16 yard touchdown pass in the final minute.
Iowa (9-2, 6-2) hasn't lost to Illinois at Kinnick Stadium since 1999.
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