Illinois football snaps eight-game losing streak against Iowa

The Hawkeyes lost to the Fighting Illini for the first time since 2008 Saturday at Memorial Stadium.


Grace Smith

Illinois defensive lineman Keith Randolph Jr. sacks Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras during a football game between Iowa and Illinois at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill., on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022.

Austin Hanson, Pregame Editor

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Iowa football’s matchup with Illinois Saturday lived up to its billing. Illinois, a 3.5-point betting favorite, downed Iowa, 9-6.

The Fighting Illini snapped their eight-game losing streak to the Hawkeyes. Iowa hadn’t lost to Illinois since 2008.

The contest’s 15 combined points were all scored by kickers — Iowa’s Drew Stevens and Illinois’ Fabrizio Pinton. Stevens went 2-of-3, and Pinton made all three of his attempts.

Illinois and Iowa ranked third and seventh in the nation in total defense, respectively, before action began at Memorial Stadium. The Hawkeyes and Fighting Illini gained 222 and 316 total offensive yards, respectively.

Iowa’s punter, Tory Taylor, booted the ball eight times for 327 yards. Illinois punted on six occasions, netting 249 yards. The contest featured seven punts downed inside the 20-yard line.

Thanks to two Illini fumbles in the second quarter, the Hawkeyes started two drives inside the Illinois 40-yard line — one at the 33 and another at the 5.

Iowa’s drive that started at the 33-yard line ended with a 27-yard Tory Taylor punt to the Illinois 14. The Hawkeyes ran three plays for -6 yards on the drive.

The Hawkeyes’ drive that started on the 5-yard line lasted four plays. Iowa netted -4 yards before Stevens placed a 27-yard field goal attempt between the uprights.

The Hawkeyes put a 10-play, 52-yard drive together at the end of the first half. Stevens, however, missed a 45-yard field goal that would’ve given Iowa a 9-6 lead at the break.

With 3:01 remaining in the fourth quarter, Iowa appeared primed to steal the game from Illinois. Hawkeye cornerback Riley Moss recovered a ball Illinois quarterback Artur Sitkowski fumble at the Iowa 18-yard line. Moss returned the ball to end zone for a touchdown.

Soon after Moss crossed the goal line, officials stopped the game to review the play. Referees reversed the call on the field and determined that Sitkowski’s elbow was down. The Illini walked away with a 36-yard field goal and a 9-6 lead.

“From what I saw, I mean, I saw it on the replay,” Iowa defensive end Noah Shannon said postgame. “On the field, I was like on the other side, so I didn’t get a good, clear look at it. But on the big board, it looked like it was a fumble. If the refs call it not a fumble, you just gotta play the next play after that.”

On the ensuing possession, Iowa drove the ball to its own 47-yard line. Senior quarterback Spencer Petras then threw an interception on second-and-3. The pick gave Illinois the ball back at its own 33-yard line.

With all three of its timeouts remaining, Iowa did manage to get one last possession. On a third-and-32 from its own 20-yard line, Iowa ran a failed hook-and-ladder play as time expired.

“It just sucks,” Petras said of his disappointment with Iowa’s offensive performance. “It just sucks putting up six points. I feel like a lot of it is just self-inflicted. You know, it starts with me. But as a unit, we have to be better. We just can’t keep doing this. So, it just sucks.”

DeVito injured

Illinois starting quarterback Tommy DeVito went down with an injury in the first half Saturday. DeVito was 6-of-11 for 42 yards before he exited the contest.

DeVito has been Illinois’ starter through five weeks this season. He’s thrown for 1,163 yards and nine touchdowns. He transferred to Illinois from Syracuse during the offseason.

Artur Sitkowski, who is a junior in terms of NCAA eligibility, relieved DeVito. He passed for 74 yards, going 13-of-19. 

“Both of them are very talented,” Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell said. “Defensive scheme was the same throughout the game. It’s down to the fundamentals and the makable plays again. [Sitkowski] did a heck of a job.”

Sitkowski threw one interception, but it came at a critical point in the game. With 9:56 remaining in the fourth quarter, Illinois had driven the ball to the Iowa 4-yard line. On second-and-goal, Sitkowski was intercepted by Iowa safety Quinn Schulte.

Sitkowski’s miscue kept the game tied, 6-6. The pick ultimately did not cost Illinois the game.

Big Picture

Iowa is now 3-3 on the season. The Hawkeyes are tied with the Northwestern Wildcats and Wisconsin Badgers for last place in the Big Ten West at 1-2 in league play.

“Football unravels itself and seasons unravel themselves,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “My message to our team [pregame] was, you shouldn’t be judging anybody until you start preparing for those people and see what they actually look like at any given time. We’re sitting here right now, we’re 3-3. We’ve got a week to figure things out the best we can. The cavalry’s not coming. So, we’ll try to figure out what we can do and do more effectively and then brace up for the next six weeks.

“We knew they were all going to be tough. Moving forward, we do have some strengths on our team. We have to sure up whatever weaknesses we have and see what we can do. It’s a new six-game season, and we’ll take it a week at a time.”

Illinois is now 5-1 overall and 2-1 in conference play. The Illini are tied for first in the West with the Purdue Boilermakers and Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Up next

The Hawkeyes have Week 7 of the season off. After its bye, Iowa will travel to Ohio Stadium in Columbus for a matchup with 6-0 Ohio State.

The No. 3 Buckeyes, No. 4 Michigan Wolverines, and Rutgers Scarlet Knights are the only Big Ten East teams the Hawkeyes will play this season.