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Home / Illinois picks off Hawkeyes: Iowa running game shut down, passing game stolen
IOWA CITY -
Think big? Think not.
The Iowa Hawkeyes are in trouble. Deep, serious trouble.
The losing streak has reached three. Now come road trips to Northwestern and Wisconsin. Five straight losses loom on the horizon, just like in 1993 and '94.
Illinois put the Hawkeyes in this predicament Saturday before 70,397 fans at Kinnick Stadium on a clear, crisp afternoon.
The Illini smothered Iowa in the second half and posted a 26-7 victory, leaving the Hawks clutching for answers after a promising start.
Illinois bewildered Matt Sherman and intercepted five of his passes. It stuffed the line of scrimmage and held Sedrick Shaw to 38 yards, his lowest total since 1993.
The Hawkeyes finished with 20 yards on the ground. They collected 65 yards in the second half. They went kaput.
Now the Hawkeyes need two victories in their last three games to qualify for a bowl game.
The "Think Big" campaign by the school's public relations department has come back to haunt them.
"If we don't win them now, we're sitting home for
Christmas," said dejected U of I lineman Matt Purdy.
Scouts from the Alamo, Sun and Independence Bowls watched this game from the press box, trying to find a Big Ten team with six I-A victories. They're still looking.
Illinois has battered the Hawkeyes 122-17 the last three years. It was 49-3 in 1993, 47-7 last year and now this.
"I know everyone starts to crack a smile when I say this, but Hayden Fry causes me more turmoil during the week than anyone else," Illinois Coach Lou Tepper claimed. "He's
probably taken three years off my life the last few years."
Turmoil or not, Illinois had the answers with a blitz package that fooled Sherman.
"For the most they just confused us," Sherman said.
"They stunted when we didn't think they'd stunt."
Illinois bobbed when they were supposed to weave.
"With all the stunting and blitzing up front, it was useless to try to run the ball very much," Fry explained. "The linemen kept wanting to. Every time we'd run, we'd get popped. Sedrick didn't have a chance."
Illinois ranks 13th in the nation in total defense. That number could be going up.
The NFL scouts think Illinois has two of the best linebackers in the country in Simeon Rice and Kevin Hardy. The Hawkeyes won't argue.
"We tried to go away from them, but they seemed to be all over the field today," Purdy said.
The Hawkeyes had their chances, even after Illinois grabbed a 16-7 lead in the third quarter, but couldn't make a few inches when they had to.
Iowa faced 4th-and-inches from its own 29-yard line late in the third quarter with a chance to rally. Fry went for the first down, but instead of a quarterback sneak the Hawkeyes tried a normal running play with Shaw. Illinois linebacker Dennis Stallings dropped Shaw for a
2-yard loss. Four plays later, Bret Scheuplein kicked a field goal for a 19-7 lead.
Tim Dwight's 40-yard kickoff return and a 15-yard penalty put Iowa in good position, but Sherman overthrew Scott Slutzker and suffered his third interception.
Iowa got the ball back, but then Sherman had another picked off when his pass hung in the wind.
Illinois did not take full advantage of the takeaways until Ty Douthard scored on a 3-yard run with 2:13 left in the game. That put it out of reach.
Illinois came to Iowa City with the worst rushing attack in the Big Ten, averaging 94 yards on the ground. It nearly tripled that against Iowa with 244.
Robert Holcombe ran for 102, including a 56-yarder that set up a 5-yard TD pass from Johnny Johnson to Matt Cushing for a 10-7 lead in the second quarter.
That 56-yarder was the longest running play for Illinois all season. Later, Steve Havard scored on a 35-yard run, which is their second-longest.
Johnson did not start the game at quarterback, but he gave Illinois a little spark after relieving Scott Weaver in the second quarter.
The Illini passed for 60 yards but didn't need any more than that.
Shaw, who carried the ball 23 times Saturday for his 38 yards, needed 83 yards to break the career rushing mark at Iowa. That will have to wait.
Iowa's lone touchdown came on a 12-yard pass from Sherman to Dwight in the second quarter for a 7-3 lead.