IOWA CITY Ia. — Jordan Walsh pulled left from his right guard position and made a textbook block. That’s one reason why Jordan Canzeri was off to the races.
“I just saw Canzeri out of the corner of my eye, running free,” Walsh said.
Canzeri’s 75-yard third-quarter touchdown run was one highlight in No. 22 Iowa’s 29-20 victory over Illinois Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. It was the longest touchdown run by a Hawkeye since Shonn Greene’s 75-yarder against Purdue in 2008. Adam Robinson had a 75-yard run against Iowa State in 2010, but didn’t score.
Iowa rolled up 478 yards of total offense against an Illinois defense that is night-and-day better than it was a season ago. The Hawkeyes also surrendered a season-high 363 yards.
Pass offense: Hello, Jerminic
C.J. Beathard completed 15 of 31 passes for 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and improved to 7-0 as a starter. George Kittle had one of those touchdowns, a 21-yarder to start the scoring in the first quarter. Kittle, a junior, had no touchdown catches until he got one against North Texas on Sept. 26. He now has a touchdown catch in three straight games.
“C.J.’s just really throwing it really good, and I’ve taken advantage of those opportunities,” Kittle said.
True freshman Jerminic Smith has replaced injured star wide receiver Tevaun Smith in the starting lineup the last two games. Beathard threw to Jerminic four times, all incompletions, at Wisconsin last week. But the rookie had a big game Saturday.
Jerminic had four catches for 118 yards, including a 49-yard hookup in the second quarter. Smith also made a nice block on Canzeri’s 17-yard screen pass touchdown.
That’s the good. The bad? Smith had a Beathard bullet bounce off his hands in the end zone in the second quarter. He also made a nice move on a slant pattern in a third-and-5 situation late in the game that would have given Iowa a first down, but couldn’t pull it in.
“He’s an eager learner and works hard in practice,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Rush offense: Canzeri’s record day
Coming off a career-high 26 carries last week at Wisconsin, Canzeri had 20 carries in the first half alone Saturday. And that was just an appetizer. He finished with a school-record 43 carries for 256 yards, the third-highest total in Iowa history.
“As long as he could go, we were going to go with him,” Ferentz said.
Iowa’s offensive line had to adjust on the fly. Walsh was knocked out of the game early, but did return the second half. Sean Welsh moved from left guard to right guard, and freshman James Daniels was inserted at left guard. Daniels later moved to right tackle when Ike Boettger went out with an ankle injury. And left tackle Boone Myers missed his second straight game with a neck injury.
“I was asked how much (Daniels) has played tackle,” “Ferentz said. “I said, 'probably not enough.' He’s done a little bit in practice, but with Boone out, we’re getting a little bit thin. For James to get thrown into that situation, this will be a great learning experience..”
Iowa finished with 278 yards rushing on 51 carries. The 51 carries tied for the 10th most of the Ferentz era.
Iowa senior Jordan Canzeri makes most of opportunity. Rick Brown/HawkCentral.com
Pass defense: Lunt’s arm creates headaches
Geronimo Allison of Illinois entered the game as the Big Ten’s leader in receptions (32) and receiving yards (453). He was a handful for Iowa left cornerback Greg Mabin. Allison, a former Iowa Western Community College player, finished with eight catches for 148 yards. He also caught a 53-touchdown pass from quarterback Wes Lunt in the fourth quarter.
Lunt completed 25 of 42 passes for 317 yards. That’s the most yards Iowa has yielded in a game this season. But Allison had the only interception. He tried a reverse pass on a third-and-1 play from the Iowa 40 early in the fourth quarter. Mabin picked it off.
Rush defense: Streak is over
Iowa entered play Saturday as the only FBS team to not allow a rushing touchdown this season. That ended on Ke’Shawn Vaughn’s 4-yard run in the first quarter.
Illinois was air-first on offense Saturday. One reason is that leading running back Josh Ferguson missed the game with a shoulder injury. Illinois gained just 46 yards on 24 carries against an Iowa defense that has been allowing an average of only 84.4 yards per game.
One of the biggest plays turned in by the Iowa defense came in the second quarter with the Hawkeyes holding a 13-7 lead. Facing a third-and-1 at its own 38, Iowa defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson stopped Vaughn for no gain and the Illini were forced to punt. That was one of Johnson’s career-best six tackles.
Johnson and Nathan Bazata continue to improve after replacing Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat at defensive tackle this season.
“You’ve got to be strong up the middle on any team, and those guys are doing a really good job with not a lot of experience,” Ferentz said.
Special teams: Another foot forward
Marshall Koehn missed his second point-after in three games following Iowa’s first touchdown. But he bounced back by kicking field goals of 19, 34 and 40 yards. That 40-yarder, with 2:11 remaining, put a lock on the Hawkeyes’ sixth straight victory.
“When we had to have him, he came up big,” Ferentz said.
Dillon Kidd averaged 46.6 yards on five punts. Kidd had punts of 49 and 50 yards in the second half.
“Those punts that Dillon had in that second half were money,” Ferentz said.
Highlights from Iowa's 29-20 win over Illinois