By LUKE MEREDITH, AP Sports Writer
October 13, 2007
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) -- Illinois quarterback Eddie McGee scanned the field and
spotted an open receiver in the end zone.
What he didn't see was Iowa's Brett Greenwood, who happily cradled McGee's
Greenwood intercepted McGee's pass at the goal line with 1:12 left and the
Hawkeyes upset No. 18 Illinois 10-6 on Saturday, snapping the Illini's five-game
Jake Christensen threw for 182 yards and a touchdown and Albert Young added
99 yards rushing for the Hawkeyes (3-4, 1-3 Big Ten), who broke an eight-game
losing streak in Big 10 play and knocked off a ranked opponent for the first
time since 2005.
Trailing 10-6 with 2:28 left, McGee -- in relief of Isiah "Juice" Williams
-- found freshman Arrelious Benn for completions of 28 and 24 yards that put
Illinois on the Iowa 12.
But under pressure, McGee threw a pass that hit Greenwood in the numbers,
sealing Iowa's fifth straight win over Illinois.
"He tried to force it in there," Illinois coach Ron Zook said of McGee,
who came in after Williams had fumbled early in the fourth quarter. "He led him
The Hawkeyes held the Illini (5-2, 3-1) to 24 points below their season
average, slowing down their dangerous option game and star running back Rashard
Mendenhall. Iowa held Illinois, the nation's fifth-ranked rushing attack, to 137
yards on 35 attempts.
Mendenhall had just 67 yards on 15 carries, his lowest output since the
Illini's season-opening loss to Missouri.
The Hawkeyes needed this one. Iowa had looked awful in losses to Indiana and
Penn State the previous two weeks, and though its offense again failed to put up
points, the defense came through with one of its best efforts of the season.
"It's been a tough period for our football team certainly, and we're just
getting tremendous leadership from guys that are very visible," said Iowa coach
Kirk Ferentz, whose team broke a four-game losing streak. "I think our guys can
feel good about things."
A few breaks didn't hurt, either.
Iowa took a 10-6 lead with six seconds left in the third quarter, thanks in
part to a fortuitous penalty. The Hawkeyes were called for an illegal formation
on third-and-2, when Albert Young was stopped short of the first down.
Given a second chance, Christensen found Brandon Myers for a 20-yard
Luck shone again on the Hawkeyes midway through the fourth quarter. McGee
had found an open Joe Morgan for an apparent 83-yard touchdown pass, but the
Illini were flagged for an ineligible receiver downfield. They were eventually
forced to punt.
"When you're struggling, things tend to go against you," Ferentz said.
"You just have to try to generate energy, play hard and hope things go your
Illinois took a 6-3 lead on its first possession of the second half.
Williams found Benn for 35-yard completion as the Illini marched inside the Iowa
10. But three times the Hawkeyes stuffed Illinois inside the 6 yard line,
forcing Jason Reda's 23-yard field goal.
The teams traded field goals in the first half, when Iowa drove into
Illinois territory several times but only came away with three points.
Reda hit a 46-yard field goal late in the first quarter to open the scoring.
Iowa, which hasn't hit a field goal longer than 41 yards this season, failed to
convert fourth downs at the Illinois 32 and 28 in the first quarter.
Christensen also misfired on two passes at the Illinois 10 late in the first
half, leading to Daniel Murray's 28-yard field goal with 26 seconds left before
Williams was 9-of-15 passing for 98 yards, and he rushed for 41 yards on 10
carries. Benn had 87 yards receiving for the Illini, which was trying to become
bowl eligible for the first time since 2001.
Illinois was playing as a ranked team for the first time since the 2001
season, though that status is now in jeopardy. Despite the loss, Zook was
adamant that won't shy away from inserting McGee for a change of pace next week
"Right now, Juice is the starting quarterback. But that doesn't mean that
Eddie won't play," Zook said.
Christensen played much better in the second half, completing 8-of-9 passes
without taking a sack and leading Iowa to its first win since beating Syracuse
35-0 on Sept. 8.
"We've never had a loss of confidence. Our belief in each other is starting
to pay off," Christensen said. "I think it will benefit us down the road."
Updated on Saturday, Oct 13, 2007 4:52 pm, EDT
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