Charlie Jones had a 100-yard kickoff return for No. 18 Iowa’s first touchdown and the Hawkeyes went on to beat Illinois 33-23 on Saturday.
Iowa (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) was trailing 10-0 in the first quarter when Jones took the kick near the right corner of the end zone and ran through a hole on the left side for the score.
Iowa wide receiver Arland Bruce IV had a 2-yard run for a touchdown and Caleb Shudak kicked four field goals, including a 51-yarder in the second quarter. Linebacker Jack Campbell’s 32-yard interception return for a touchdown with 1:36 to play closed the Hawkeyes’ scoring.
Illinois’ Brandon Peters threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Luke Ford to end a 12-play, 75-yard drive that took 6:23 to start the game. But the Illini (4-7, 3-5) had just 9 yards on 10 plays in their next three possessions.
James McCourt had three field goals for the Illini.
Tyler Goodson ran for 132 yards for the Hawkeyes, his third 100-yard game of the season. Alex Padilla, making his second start, was just 6 of 17 for 83 yards.
Peters, who threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Williams in the closing seconds, was 16 of 36 for 248 yards. Illinois’ Chase Brown, who was averaging 106.4 rushing yards per game, was held to 42 yards on 13 carries.
Iowa extended its winning streak against the Illini to eight games. The Hawkeyes have won 13 of the last 14 in the series.
Illinois was playing without head coach Bret Bielema, who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week. Assistant head coach George McDonald was the interim head coach.
Iowa defensive back Henry Marchese was greeted by more than just his parents during the pregame Senior Day ceremony. Marchese’s twin brother, Michael, a senior tight end for Illinois, was also there. The two hugged to a loud ovation from the crowd.
Henry Marchese, who plays on special teams, had a key block on Jones’ kickoff return.
Iowa’s conservative offense drew scattered boos at times from the home fans, especially on a second-quarter possession inside Illinois territory when the Hawkeyes ran three consecutive running plays for minus-4 yards, leading to a Shudak field goal. Still, Iowa stayed in the Big Ten West Division title race heading into the final weekend of the season.
The Hawkeyes, who have been in the rankings all season, likely hold their position with the win.
Illinois: Hosts Northwestern on Saturday.
Iowa: Visits Nebraska on Friday.