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Player of the game | Iowa kicker Caleb Shudak

The Hawkeyes’ senior was rather busy on Senior Day at Kinnick Stadium. The back-and-forth field goal battle with Illinois’ James McCourt saw the Iowa kicker make field goals of 51, 48, 29 and 30 yards while missing a 57-yarder late in the first half. Considering how often the Hawkeyes would stall out offensively in Illinois territory, the steady leg of Shudak was a difference maker in Iowa’s 33-23 victory.

OffenseIllinois: D- | Iowa: C-An unbalanced offense can work for the Illini if it skews more toward the run than pass. The reverse hasn’t been a successful path to victory this season. So with Chase Brown mostly shut down and Josh McCray also ineffective, a run game that accounted for 64 yards on 25 carries was a serious problem for Illinois. Brandon Peters did throw for 248 yards and two touchdowns, but there were long stretches where the Illini simply couldn’t move the ball.

Defense

Illi

nois: C |Iowa: B-Isaiah Gay was a constant presence in the Iowa backfield with 51/2 tackles for loss. Kerby Joseph added another interception to his season haul. And the Illinois defense shut down the Iowa passing game. Not so much the run game, though, which was just good enough for the Hawkeyes in their Big Ten divisional win. Iowa’s defensive successes came in reverse — better against the run, but with a couple interceptions off Peters for balance.

Special teams

Illinois: B- | Iowa: A-

Shudak and McCourt combined to make seven field goals Saturday afternoon at Kinnick Stadium, and McCourt added a 53-yarder to his program record of makes from 50-plus yards that now stands at eight. One of the real differences in what turned out to be a 10-point game, though, was the 100-yard kick return for a touchdown by Iowa’s Charlie Jones. That was particularly notable given McCourt had 33 touchbacks on 38 kickoffs heading into the game.

Coaching

Illinois: C | Iowa: D

There was one clear question following Saturday’s game. What was Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz thinking? Illinois was often playing with its third string nose guard after Rod Perry II didn’t make the trip and Calvin Avery couldn’t stay on the field. The Hawkeyes almost refused to run up the middle despite a clear advantage. That repeated decision kept the Illini in the game late. Illinois proceeded to rack up penalties and head-scratching decisions to still lose.

OverallIllinois: C- |Iowa: C+Saturday was “must win” territory for an Illinois team that at least had a bowl game as a possibility still after winning two weeks ago at Minnesota. The door isn’t shut completely — five wins might be enough this season — but the Illini aren’t quite there as a program. Don’t quite have the winning consistently thing down just yet. So there’s plenty to play for next week against Northwestern, including a trophy, but it will take the complementary football coach Bret Bielema has yearned for all season long and only rarely gotten.

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

College/Prep Sports Reporter

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

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