Once again, Iowa’s defensive performance was so masterful that there were several candidates for the good. Manny Rugamba had another wonderful performance, recording seven total tackles and a forced fumble, which he recovered. Anthony Gair was second on the team in tackles with eight and even recorded a tackle for loss. Usually, when a safety has such a high number of tackles, it’s a negative because it means that the ball carrier is frequently making it to the second level. In this case, Gair together a brilliant performance and was always in the right place at the right time, meeting the running back near the line of scrimmage.
Desmond King also had a solid game, making a superstar interception that would’ve been good in the NFL:
Tabulating all of the statistics, we’ll award the good to the defensive line, which put on an absolute show. As a whole, the unit amassed 21 tackles, six tackles for loss, and a forced fumble. Jaleel Johnson was his excellent self, registering four tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack. Cedrick Lattimore might’ve had the most impressive defensive play of the game when he burst through a double team (and a hold) and forced Lunt to fumble. Illinois was able to recover the fumble but it set up 4th and 11 on Iowa’s 30 in the fourth quarter. Iowa was able to defend the pass, securing the #NOKICKOFFS victory.
The Bad & The Ugly: Passing Offense
The defense, run game, and special teams were so dominating that the only weakness the entire evening was, SURPRISE, the passing offense. The good news is that C.J. Beathard wasn’t sacked once. The bad news is that he only completed nine passes for 80 yards and an interception.
The day started off on a bad note when Jerminic Smith dropped a routine slant pass on Iowa’s second drive of the game. Iowa would end up punting a few plays later. It was worse to start off the second quarter when Beathard threw a pass behind McCarron, that arguably should’ve been caught, and it ended up in an Illini defender’s hands. Smith redeemed himself by bringing down Iowa’s longest pass of the day, a whopping 17 yards, but he was the only wide receiver to catch more than a single pass.
Some of the calls were also frustrating. Or maybe it was the decision making of Beathard? Early in the fourth quarter Iowa was facing 4th and 14 on the Illini 23 and the Hawkeyes were forced to go for it due to the wind. The drive ended when Beathard threw a 5-yard crossing pattern to Noah Fant, well short of the first down. In fairness, it was difficult to see whether or not the wide receivers down the field had even an inch of separation. But, considering Iowa literally had nothing to lose by throwing the ball into the end zone, you have to wonder why C.J. didn’t take a shot.