The Good, Bad & Ugly 2019: Illinois

By Mike Jones on November 25, 2019 at 2:00 pm
© Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Good: Bend Don't Break and Keith Duncan

There was a point on Saturday when I said to myself “I know Phil loves to keep Norm’s tradition of bend don’t break but this is getting ridiculous.” Iowa’s defense was mercurial against the Fighting Illini. For one, they couldn’t seem to stop quarterback Brandon Peters, who… [checks notes], ran for a season-high 76 yards against one of the best defenses in the nation? The Illini picked up more first downs than the Hawkeyes, 20 to 16, and most of those came on the ground, with Illinois rushing for an impressive 192 yards.

It seemed like when Illinois wasn’t punting they were putting together highly efficient drives. The first came in the first quarter, when they marched to Iowa’s 31-yard line and let’s be honest, scored an easy touchdown on a blown coverage. The second came just before half, when they moved the ball from their 29-yard line to Iowa’s 37 and decided to go for it on 4th down. That was a mistake:

The Illini stormed out at half, quickly marching 50 yards to Iowa’s 21-yard line before pulling some absolute nonsense and:

Later, early in the third quarter, the Illini got to Iowa’s 29-yard line before the Hawkeye defense pushed them back another seven yards. After a 3-yard run the Illini settled for a 51-yard field goal. They missed.

Finally, early in the 4th quarter, the Illini were in business after putting together a 14-yard Dre Brown run, a 19-yard Dre Brown run and a 19-yard Reggie Corbin run. Set up with a 1st and 10 at Iowa’s 16, the Hawkeyes buckled down and forced a field goal, which the Illini made, making the score 16-10.

Illinois crossed Iowa’s 40-yard line 5 times and came away with 10 points. Bend don’t break, indeed.

How much time should we spent on Keith Duncan? Not a lot, I hope, because we should all recognize his awesomeness. He went 4/6, with the two misses being from 40-49 yards. No one has made more field goals than Duncan and he’s currently the 12th leading scorer in the nation. Fun fact: the leading scoring kicker in the nation is LSU’s Cade York, who has only made 16 field goals (to Duncan’s 27) but has a BONKERS amount of extra points, at 64 (to Duncan’s 22).

Honorable Mention: Kirk and Mary walking to the middle of the field on senior day for Devonte Young and the play of ISM.

The Bad: Arm Tackling

Brandon Peters was allowed to run for all of these yards and escape all these sacks because Iowa’s defenders were playing flag football.  There was sloppy tackling all over the field on Saturday, which is how the Illini rushed for 192 yards on one of the better rushing defenses in the nation. The Hawkeyes looked lackadaisical at times, only making plays when they needed to, as discussed above. It’s an easy fix as I’m sure Phil will be chewing some asses this week but it’s never enjoyable to watch your defensive unit play lazy football.

The Ugly: The Nate Stanley Discourse

A few Tweets stuck out to me following the game. Among them were:

There were others but these are the ones that I remember the most.

This seems to be one of the more argumentative years between Iowa fans and the media or media types that surround the program. Apparently, part of that argument has been about the quality of play of Nate Stanley. Objectively, Nate Stanley appears to be a through and through Hawkeye and a very good person. Also, objectively, his legacy will always be clouded by his mediocre to poor performance in big road games and how Iowa never quite got over the divisional hump while he quarterbacked the team. Both of those things can be true.

The problem seems to be that by criticizing Stanley’s play, which was wholly valid (even during the Illinois game), is the implication that you’re someone impugning his character. At least, that’s what I’m seeing happening on the toxic wasteland of Twitter. This is an especially bad trait of the Kirk Ferentz is a Nice Guy Crowd; because Kirk Ferentz is a decent human being and nice guy, he’s beyond reproach when it comes to having his decision-making questioned (like, say, being questioned about hiring his son as offensive coordinator which, statistically, appears to be a very poor choice). Simply questioning decision-making is not equal to questioning effort or personally attacking someone. To say it is and make it personal and overly emotional is a form of demagoguery, in my mind.

I hope we can all remember that ultimately, we all want the same thing for Iowa: success. To achieve those goals, we all have our role to play. Fans should support their team, ask questions and not be shitty about college kids by personally attacking them. Writers should seek to stay objective, not carry water for anyone, and hopefully seek accountability.  

Iowa City is a stage, and Hawkeyes in their time play many parts.

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