Natives restless vs. UI

Natives restless vs. UI

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Add Eric Thigpen to the "Hawkeyes who have a bone to pick with Lou Tepper" list.

The junior safety from Dolton said the only regret he had Saturday was "not getting to play against (Tepper) and beat him," Thigpen said. "I guess he snuck out on us."

Earlier this week, Iowa tailback Tavian Banks had harsh words for the former Illinois coach and his recruiting methods. Thigpen offered a similar observation Saturday.

"Nine times out of 10, I'd be at Illinois," Thigpen said. "Don't get me wrong, Lou Tepper is a great guy, but the rules I set on my own Illinois broke, and that made me not go there."

Thigpen said coaches could call him only on Wednesdays and Sundays.

But Tepper "tried to dominate the recruiting process and broke those rules," Thigpen said. "He tried calling me at all hours of the morning, tried catching me before I went to school.

"My family and I just wasn't tolerating it. He was just nagging.

"He didn't mean to do it intentionally. He was just excited for me to come there, but in the end he hurt himself."

Thigpen is 1 of 17 Illinois products on Iowa's roster. He played a significant role Saturday, intercepting a Tim Lavery pass, breaking up three others and making seven tackles.

"I had a gleam in my eye all week waiting for this game," he said. "All 17 of the (Illinois) guys got up for this game. That's all we wanted to do, show we're the better talent from Illinois."

Two good.

If Tony Collins keeps it up, teams might punt in Tim Dwight's direction again.

That's Hayden Fry's read on the situation after Collins' performance against the Illini, highlighted by a 61-yard touchdown return of a Ryan Tabloff line drive.

Teams have tried to avoid Dwight, considered one of the Big Ten's most dangerous return men, by kicking to Collins, who entered the game ranked 15th nationally with a 14-yard average.

Against the Illini, Collins returned two punts for 100 yards and scored his first career TD. He leads the Big Ten in return yardage.

"Pretty soon, teams will start punting to Tim Dwight to avoid Collins," Fry said. "Collins just gets better and better."

Dwight was no slouch against the Illini. With 26 yards on two punt returns, the senior from Iowa City moved into 10th place on the Big Ten's career punt return list at 777 yards.

Mum's the word.

Among the Hawkeyes injured Saturday was offensive tackle Jeremy McKinney. Not that Fry wanted to talk about it.

"They've got all these liability things now," he said. "If I keep somebody from getting a pro contract, they can sue me big-time.

"If a guy's an underclassmen I don't mind talking about it – he can get healthy again. But a senior getting hurt, I've been requested not to give out details."

Quick strike.

Iowa's scoring drives lasted 1:01, 4:27, 4:55, 19 seconds, nine seconds and 3:07.

"We didn't give our defense much rest," quarterback Matt Sherman said.

That's fine for Fry, who prefers points to time of possession.

"I'd rather have big plays," he said. "Why fool around? We're a big-play football team."

Down the middle.

Fry would not make any comparisons between Banks and UI running back Robert Holcombe, other to say, "Holcombe plays for Illinois, and Banks plays for us."

Rough road ahead.

The potholes in Iowa's schedule are around the bend.

The Hawkeyes bump into ranked opponents for the first time this season, visiting No. 7 Ohio State next weekend and No. 6 Michigan on Oct. 18.

That combination has been trouble for Iowa, which has not beaten the Buckeyes and Wolverines in the same season since 1962. Coach Jerry Burns' team beat Ohio State and Michigan by identical 28-14 scores and finished 4-5-0.

The Hawkeyes tied both teams in 1988.

Fan friendly.

The Illinois student body might try pulling off what its Iowa counterparts did before Saturday's game.

The students, seated near the 10-yard line of the north end zone, played catch with several Iowa players during pregame warmups.

Thigpen, Richard Widlcock and Dwight took turns tossing footballs into the stands. The students did not hesitate to throw spirals back toward the field.

Fans unfriendly.

A few Illinois students made the mistake of sitting in the Iowa student section and cheering loudly for the UI. They quickly were drowned out by Iowa students, whose rambunctious serenade ended with, "Get the –– out of here."

This 'n that.

Has there ever been an easier home schedule in the Big Ten than Iowa's? The four teams visiting Kinnick Stadium this season – Illinois, Indiana, Purdue and Minnesota – have first-year coaches and were a combined 5-27 in 1996. ... Place-kicker Zach Bromert is 4 of 4 this season in field goals and 19 of 22 in his career. The 40-yarder against the UI matched his career long. ... Iowa has won seven straight games, the second-longest winning streak in the country. Penn State has won eight straight.

Categories (3):Illini Sports, Football, Sports

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