Grading Iowa football’s 9-6 road loss to Illinois

Daily Iowan Pregame Editor Austin Hanson provides a three-phase breakdown of the Hawkeyes’ Week 6 performance.


Grace Smith

Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras throws a pass during a football game between Iowa and Illinois at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill., on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. The Fighting Illini defeated the Hawkeyes, 9-6. Petras averaged 4.7 yards per pass.

Austin Hanson, Pregame Editor

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The Iowa football team will head into its bye week with a 3-3 record after a 9-6 loss to Illinois Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Iowa is tied for last place in the Big Ten West with Wisconsin and Northwestern. All three teams are 1-2 in league play.

After the game, Daily Iowan Pregame Editor Austin Hanson graded the Hawkeyes’ performance in all three phases.

Offense — F

Seven points is an embarrassingly low single-game scoring total. When Iowa posted seven points against both Iowa State and South Dakota State, it would’ve been easy to assume those outings would tie for the Hawkeyes’ lowest single-game total this season.

Iowa proved those assumptions wrong Saturday, scoring six points on two field goals. The Hawkeyes netted 222 total yards — 170 passing and 52 rushing.

Iowa started two drives inside the Illinois 40-yard line — one at the 33 and another at the 5. The drive that started at the 33 ended with a Tory Taylor punt to the Illinois 14-yard line. Drew Stevens finished the Hawkeyes drive that began at the 5-yard line with a 27-yard field goal. On those two drives, Iowa ran seven plays for -10 yards.

The Hawkeyes also possessed the ball two separate times while they were down three points with under three minutes remaining in the game. The first of those possessions ended via a Spencer Petras interception. The senior quarterback was picked off on a second-and-3 from his own 47-yard line.

The second wrapped up as time expired. Iowa ran a failed hook-and-ladder play on third-and-32 from its own 20-yard line as the final three seconds of the game ticked off the clock.

Defense — B

If it hadn’t forced a few timely turnovers, Iowa’s defense would deserve a lower grade.

After they surrendered 172 rushing yards to the Michigan Wolverines, the Hawkeyes were looking for a bounce back performance against the Fighting Illini. They didn’t get it.

Iowa surrendered 200 rushing yards — Illinois running back Chase Brown was responsible for 152 of those yards on 31 attempts.

The Hawkeyes only gave up 116 passing yards — though that total may have been higher if Illini starting QB Tommy DeVito had not exited the game with an injury. Backup quarterback Artur Sitkowski played the final three quarters of the game.

An Illini drive in the fourth quarter ended at the Iowa 4-yard line when safety Quinn Schulte picked off one of Sitkowski’s passes.

Cornerback Riley Moss forced a fumble in the Illini red zone, and it was recovered by linebacker Seth Benson at Illinois’ 5-yard line — setting up one of the Hawkeyes’ two scores of the day.

B is a tough grade to give a team that didn’t let its opponent score a touchdown. But allowing three fourth-down conversions — two in the same drive — certainly impacts a game.

This grade would also be different had Moss’ 82-yard fumble return touchdown late in the fourth quarter not been overturned. But as things stand, B is a fair grade.

Special teams — B-

The only thing dropping this grade is true freshman kicker Drew Stevens’ first miss of the season. On the Hawkeyes’ last drive of the first half, Stevens missed a 45-yard attempt with 12 seconds left on the clock. He finished Saturday’s game 2-of-3.

Iowa would’ve taken a 9-6 lead has Stevens converted. In hindsight, the miss proved incredibly costly — the Hawkeyes lost the game by three.

Stevens aside, Iowa’s special teams were superb yet again. Taylor punted eight times for 327 yards. He downed three of his kicks inside the 20-yard line. Taylor has punted 41 times for 1,891 yards this season.

Linebacker Jack Campbell also recovered a fumble by punt returner Isaiah Williams at the Illinois 33-yard line. Iowa did not score off the recovery. As they have for most of the season, Iowa’s defensive and special teams units are putting out a lot of the Hawkeye offense’s dumpster fires.