Leistikow's First Word: Snyder's spark helps Iowa avoid scare, pull away
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Every day Brandon Snyder worked to rehab his left knee, every ounce of sweat he gave over the course of nearly 6 months, it sped up his clock just that much more.
And he came back in the nick of time for the Iowa football team.
Playing his first game since tearing his ACL in April, Snyder uncorked an 89-yard interception return for a game-changing touchdown in the Hawkeyes’ 45-16 win against Illinois on Saturday before 69,894 fans at Kinnick Stadium.
Snyder, a redshirt junior free safety, started and played three-plus quarters without rest. His third-quarter return thwarted an Illinois scoring drive and put Iowa ahead, 24-13, serving as a Band-Aid at that point for a spotty Hawkeye performance.
Certainly, this Iowa display had some warts.
Illinois, the Big Ten Conference’s last-ranked offense, had gained more than 250 yards by halftime.
The Iowa offense again struggled with ball security, coughing up two first-half turnovers and failing on downs in Illinois territory on another.
But the Hawkeyes did what they needed to do down the stretch to pull away.
Nate Stanley zipped some nice, crisp passes to T.J. Hockenson, Matt VandeBerg and Noah Fant after Illinois closed to within, 24-16.
Akrum Wadley finally “broke” one — for an 18-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to put Iowa up, 31-16.
And the defense eventually created enough havoc against Illinois’ young roster and quarterback Jeff George Jr. Even true freshman Matt Hankins got into the act with a late interception as Iowa emptied the bench.
Now the Hawkeyes hit the bye week at 4-2 overall, 1-2 in the Big Ten.
Not many people had Iowa 5-1 at this point. A lot of predictors had 4-2 or 3-3.
Take a breath, enjoy the week off. The Hawkeyes haven't pretty getting here, but they're here. And it's not too bad.