IOWA CITY – Akrum Wadley found room to roam Saturday against Illinois.
After being part of a rushing attack which totaled 19 yards a week earlier at Michigan State, the senior running back topped 100 yards on the ground for the third time this season with a 115-yard performance against Illinois.
“I saw a lot of daylight,’’ Wadley said. “The guys up front did a good job of opening some holes and giving it room for it all to work.’’
The Hawkeyes averaged five yards per carry, gaining 191 yards against an Illinois run defense which had been surrendering a Big Ten-worst 179.5 yards per game.
“It was progress from where we were a week ago and that was the big thing,’’ offensive lineman Sean Welsh said. “We took a step forward and that is what we wanted to accomplish heading into the bye week.
Wadley found the end zone twice, scoring Iowa’s go-ahead touchdown on a two-yard reception with 8 seconds left in the first half before scoring on an 18-yard run in the fourth quarter.
His work allowed him to move past Shonn Greene and into the 10th spot on the Iowa career rushing list.
Wadley has now gained 2,246 yards, 18 more than Greene totaled.
Streak stopped: Illinois’ Bennett Williams intercepted a Nate Stanley pass and returned it 20 yards with 6 minutes, 21 seconds remaining in the second quarter Saturday, ending a string of 147 pass attempts by Stanley without a pick.
“He’s done some good things and made some good throws,’’ Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I know there is one he’d like to have back today. The ball just kind of got away from him, but he had the right idea on it.’’
The interception was the second of the season thrown by the Hawkeye sophomore and the first since his third attempt of the year in Iowa’s season-opening game against Wyoming.
Wirfs starts: Getting the start at right tackle, Tristan Wirfs became the first true freshman to start on the offensive line for Iowa since James Daniels started two games during the 2015 season.
The 6-foot-5, 315-pound native of Mount Vernon, Iowa, joins Daniels, Bryan Bulaga in 2007 and Mike Jones in 2003 as the only true freshmen to start on the offensive line for the Hawkeyes during Kirk Ferentz’s 19 seasons as the program’s head coach.
“In the second half, I felt like we made a little progress there,’’ Ferentz said. “We feel like at this point, it’s a good combination.’’