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Iowa football: Same issues haunting Hawkeyes

Iowa football: Same issues haunting Hawkeyes

From the 2019 Iowa football series
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IOWA CITY -- Five things to think about following Iowa's 19-10 victory over Illinois on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.

The win keeps the Hawkeyes at 19th in this week's Associated Press poll heading into Friday's 1:30 p.m. regular-season finale at Nebraska:

1. The good

Iowa's defense continues to be the heart and soul of an 8-3 football team that has held eight opponents to its lowest point total of the season.

One of the reasons coach Kirk Ferentz was comfortable in sending Keith Duncan onto the field for a field goal to extend a 13-7 lead was that he was believed the 16-7 margin would be enough for the Hawkeyes to win their home finale.

Iowa is allowing 12.2 points per game, the lowest defensive average of any Hawkeye team since allowing 11.1 points per game in 1959.

"The first thing that always jumps out to me about these guys is that it has been more of a team effort,'' Ferentz said. "We don't have just one dominant guy playing, and we've had a lot of moving parts. ... I think that's the great thing. These guys work together, they work hard.''

Saturday, Iowa gave up some yards, 336, but held Illinois to its lowest point total of the year. With interceptions by Michael Ojemudia and Matt Hankins and a fumble forced by Kristian Welch and recovered by Jack Koerner, the Hawkeyes turned over an Illini offense three times that had turned the ball over just twice in its previous four games combined.

Iowa also matched Illinois' six tackles for a loss and recorded three sacks.

2. The bad

Iowa's ground game continues to spin its wheels.

The Fighting Illini were successful in their objective of limiting the Hawkeyes rushing attack, holding the Hawkeyes to 2.5 yards per carry or about half of what Iowa's goal is set at for each game.

Tyler Goodson led the Hawkeyes in rushing for the second straight week, but gained just 38 yards on 21 carries and 10 of those yards came on Iowa's longest run of the day.

Goodson's average of 1.8 yards per carry mirrored the issues the Hawkeyes had as they were held below 100 yards for second time in three games.

Mekhi Sargent and Toren Young didn't provide much help, combining for four carries and 13 yards.

Nate Stanley was a bright spot, topping his previous career best by two yards with the 22 yards he gained on four rushes.

3. The ugly

It was a record-setting day for Keith Duncan, whose four field goals allowed him to establish a Big Ten single-season record with 27 field goals for the season.

It marked the third time this season Duncan has kicked four field goals to provide Iowa with a difference-making effort, but he left Kinnick Stadium with some work to do.

The junior who took the field with three misses in 26 tries missed a pair of field goals in a game for the first time this season.

Duncan hit the left upright on a 46-yard attempt that would have extended a 7-0 lead in the first quarter then missed from 47 yards late in the second quarter as Iowa attempted to extend a 10-7 lead.

That didn't cost the Hawkeyes on Saturday but given the fine line between wins and losses this season -- six games decided by six points or less -- every kick counts.

4. The cool

There were a handful of Senior Day moments to pack away in the memory bank on Saturday.

It extended beyond the rare display of emotion from quarterback Nate Stanley as he spoke following the game, saying, "I don't think I'd be the person I am today if I didn't come here. The coaches have shaped me into the person I am.''

It was the sight of Landan Paulsen waiting to be joined by his twin brother Levi following their individual introductions, then both walking together to join their parents at midfield.

And if was the sight of coach Kirk Ferentz and his wife, Mary, greeting Devonte Young at midfield after the senior's parents were unable to attend. Like the other mothers, Mary Ferentz was wearing Young's jersey No. 17 as he ran onto the field. She then accepted a flower from Young gave him a hug before the Iowa coach gave him a handshake.

"We spend a lot of time together (with the players) and I think Devonte, it was fitting because of his story,'' Kirk Ferentz said.

"Every player that comes here, hoping to start every game, have an NFL career, but the best bet is getting your degree and just bringing a good attitude and work ethic every day. That's exactly what he's done. He's found a niche as a special teams player and one of our core guys, just so proud of the way he's handled everything in his career.''

5. The milestone

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz reached a career milestone on Saturday.

The Hawkeye victory was his 96th against Big Ten competition during his 21 years as Iowa's coach, tying Ferentz with former Iowa coach Hayden Fry for the fourth spot on the Big Ten's all-time list.

In Big Ten history, only Woody Hayes with 153 wins at Ohio State, Bo Schembechler with 143 at Michigan and Amos Alonzo Stagg with 115 at Chicago have accumulated more conference wins than the 96 both Ferentz and Fry have had as Iowa's only two football coaches since 1979.

"It's interesting how life goes sometimes -- and I don't want to speak for (Fry) -- but I think wheat he found her was pretty good, and I know how he feels about this state, this university today, and ditto for me,'' Ferentz said. "I just feel very fortunate.''

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