The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Illinois blows late lead to Iowa, falls 15-13

Illinois (5-6, 3-6) traveled to Iowa City for a date with the top dogs in the West, the Iowa Hawkeyes (9-2, 6-2). The Hawkeyes have notably struggled on offense but possess a defense that’s as elite as it gets. With uncertainty surrounding the starting quarterback for Illinois, Iowa looked to clinch the division with a win.

As for that uncertainty, senior quarterback John Paddock was the fan favorite to start. Sophomore quarterback Luke Altmyer hadn’t played since he left due to injury when Paddock led Illinois to a comeback win over Minnesota. Paddock was officially the starter as he looked to continue his magical run of form for the Illini. However, the Hawkeyes capitalized late, defending home territory in a 15-13 win.

Illinois won the toss and deferred to the second half, setting up a date with Iowa’s offense to start the game. The Illini forced a punt to start the game, as Paddock led his offense on the field, ending in a safety in favor of the Hawkeyes, as they took a 2-0 lead early.

Iowa had an opportunity to take an abnormal 5-0 lead in the middle of the first quarter, but it missed a 53-yard field goal far right, giving Illinois’ offense the ball at midfield. Paddock and the offense had nothing going for them, as on their first six plays, they accumulated negative 8 yards of offense, leading to a punt.

Iowa’s offense again had to punt as junior defensive tackle Jer’Zhan Newton read a screenplay perfectly to prevent a first down. Junior wide receiver Isaiah Williams caught a ball across the middle and ran for an extra 26 yards into Iowa territory. The referees picked up a flag for defensive pass interference flag, forcing the Illini to kick a 52-yard field goal, which senior Caleb Griffin nailed for a 3-2 lead.

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After the first quarter, Illinois led 3-2, a scoreline more fitting of a baseball game, but the defenses reigned supreme. However, the Hawkeyes offense got the game’s first touchdown five minutes into the second quarter, taking a 9-3 lead after an eight-minute drive.

A connection that has delivered in back-to-back weeks, Paddock to Williams, was on display early on the ensuing Illini drive, a 20-yard catch on the first play. Paddock continued to heat up, getting to the goal line, followed by a rushing touchdown from junior running back Reggie Love, giving Illinois a 10-9 lead.

The Illinois defense stepped up, forcing an Iowa punt after an eight-yard loss via sack. Paddock led the Illini down to the Iowa 34-yard line, forcing Griffin to kick another 52-yard field goal, ending up short. Junior linebacker Seth Coleman burst through the offensive line for a sack, and Iowa had to punt a few plays later.

The teams headed to the locker room with Illinois leading 10-9 in what was a defensive battle between the Big Ten West rivals. Paddock struggled early but found a rhythm later in the first half, and he led the Illini offense on the field to start the second half. The Illini got to midfield before the Hawkeyes defense stifled Paddock for three straight incompletions, forcing a punt.

Iowa’s offense was stifled as well, going three-and-out at its 17-yard line. Senior punter Tory Taylor for the Hawkeyes continued his stellar season with a 53-yard punt, showing off his prowess as perhaps their most dangerous player.

Not a lot happened during the third quarter, as Iowa punted again. The teams combined for a total of nine punts through the first 40 minutes of the game, with the Hawkeyes kicking it away six times.

The Hawkeyes defense had multiple opportunities to stop Paddock and the Illini offense, but a big third down conversion and a roughing the passer call pushed the visitors into opposing territory. Williams’ huge day continued, crossing the 100-yard threshold late in the third quarter.

The Illini lead remained 10-9 heading into the fourth quarter in the extremely low-scoring affair. Illinois kicked a 29-yard field goal to take a 13-9 lead to start the fourth quarter. Once again, Iowa punted away on its ensuing drive, its seventh punt of the evening. Sophomore punter Hugh Robertson followed suit on the next possession, with his fourth punt of the evening.

Coleman made his presence felt again, with his second sack of the evening, and the Hawkeyes’ offense had to punt for the eighth time in the game. Iowa’s defense continued to break passes up, with 11 total in the middle of the fourth quarter, forcing a fifth Robertson punt. Iowa set itself up well with a 16-yard return on that punt, getting to midfield.

This time, Iowa got into the end zone for its second touchdown of the day, and first score since the second quarter. The extra point attempt was blocked, however, as the Hawkeyes took a 15-13 lead.

Paddock and the offense took the field, looking to add another to its FBS-leading four comeback wins. However, the Hawkeyes batted a pair of passes down to take the ball back deep in Illini territory.

The Hawkeyes were able to drain the clock on offense, winning the Big Ten West and officially putting the Illini Bowl game hopes in jeopardy.



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About the Contributor
Adam Rosen, Assistant Sports Editor
Hello! I’m Adam and I’m a senior majoring in journalism. I’m one of the assistant sports editors, and this is my second year with The DI. I love to talk about sports, so if you have any questions or desire to talk about a random athlete from 10 years ago or why Messi > Ronaldo, contact me at my email below!
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