Iowa's seventh-best football victory of the last 50 years

Rick Brown
Nick Bell rushed for 168 yards in the Hawkeyes' 1990 win over No. 5 Illinois.

Illinois was ranked No. 5. Iowa was 13th. Memorial Stadium in Champaign was sold out for this clash of Big Ten co-leaders on Nov. 3, 1990.

The Illini, on a six-game winning streak, had given up just one touchdown in the previous 15 quarters. But Iowa scored on its first five possessions of the game and clobbered Illinois, 54-28.

Iowa sprinted out to a 35-14 halftime lead. Nick Bell had 145 of his 168 rushing yards over the first two quarters.

"He's probably the best running back in the whole country right now," Iowa quarterback Matt Rodgers said.

Tony Stewart also finished with 101 yards rushing for Iowa. Rodgers completed 11-of-16 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Even Coach Hayden Fry's exotics worked twice for touchdowns – Stewart's halfback pass to Danan Hughes and Jim Hartlieb's pass to Matt Whitaker on a fake field goal.

"Everything just worked out great," Fry said. "What a gratifying victory – on national TV and our third big upset on the road (Michigan State and Michigan were the first two). The running was great, the blocking was great, and when we had to pass the ball that was exceptional, too."

The Rose Bowl talk left Champaign with the loss. It was Hawkeye fans with roses on their minds now. Iowa lost two of its last three games – a 27-26 crusher at home to Ohio State and a 31-24 loss at Minnesota – but still got the Rose Bowl bid.