Illinois holds off Iowa, 27-24
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP)—Matt Eller kicked a 46-yard field goal with 24 seconds left and Illinois withstood Iowa’s fourth-quarter comeback for a 27-24 victory Saturday.
On a day when quarterback Juice Williams was erratic and the Illini running game was nearly invisible, the Illinois (5-4, 3-3 Big Ten) relied on its defense for the first three quarters.
Illinois sacked Ricky Stanzi six times, scoring a touchdown on one of them when defensive back Dere Hicks forced a fumble, scooped up the ball and ran in for 24-9 lead in the third quarter.
Stanzi, though, led the Hawkeyes (5-4, 2-3) on two fourth-quarter TD drives that tied the game at 24.
Iowa star Shonn Greene, who was quiet until the fourth quarter, scored on a 5-yard run with 2:46 left in the fourth quarter and Stanzi found tight end Allen Reisner for a 2-point conversion to tie it at 24.
Williams finally got untracked, completing passes to five different receivers to set up Eller’s field goal.
The freshman kicker split the uprights, injecting life back into a Memorial Stadium crowd that had been watching the game slip away.
Greene had 103 yards on 21 carries, giving him at least 100 yards in every game this season.
But the 23-year-old junior, who now has 1,257 yards rushing and 11 TDs, was frustrated by the Illini defense for the first three quarters.
Both teams are a win away from bowl eligibility.
Iowa’s early chances were instead created by field position.
The Hawkeyes started three second-quarter drives at its 45-yard line or better, but turned them into a pair of field goal tries by Trent Mossbrucker— one of them good—and an interception.
The best opportunity, a drive that started at the Illinois 22 after an interception by Amari Spievey, ended with a disappointing three points and left Iowa trailing 7-6. Illinois linebacker Rodney Pittman and safety Donsay Hardeman buried Greene at the 2 on third-and-goal.
Stanzi was 11-for-30 for 191 yards with two interceptions.
Williams completed 22 of 37 passes for 272 yards, including a 50-yard strike to Fred Sykes. Williams carried 12 times for 30 yards and Illinois finished with just 56 yards rushing.
Daniel Dufrene, the Illini’s leading rusher coming into the game with 593 yards, did not play. Zook said the junior from Florida wasn’t with the team much during the week due to unspecified personal reasons.