Iowa defeats Illinois for first shutout since 2010

Mark Emmert

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Riley McCarron scored on a punt return in the second quarter and Iowa wore down Illinois in the second half Saturday to earn a 28-0 victory at windy Memorial Stadium.

It was the first Hawkeye shutout since blanking Ball State in 2010, and first in Big Ten Conference play since beating Minnesota in 2009. Facing temperatures in the 30s and winds in the 25 mph range, the Illini could never mount an attack.

Iowa wide receiver Riley McCarron returns a punt 55 yards for a touchdown during the second quarter against Illinois on Saturday.

The first half was filled with punts, eight by Illinois, four by Iowa. The Illini’s sixth punt turned the game in Iowa’s favor.

Backed up at the 5-yard line, Ryan Frain booted a 50-yard punt that Hawkeye wide receiver McCarron fielded near the Illinois sideline. He found a cavernous opening in front of him, made one cut to his right and raced 55 yards untouched to the end zone.

That gave Iowa (7-4, 5-3 Big Ten) a 7-0 lead that it took into the locker room despite a pair of turnovers and only one third-down conversion.

In the third quarter, the Hawkeyes started to establish a running game. A 12-play, 77-yard drive — 11 of the plays rushes — culminated in a 1-yard LeShun Daniels Jr. touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

Daniels added a 50-yard touchdown jaunt in the fourth quarter to put Iowa ahead 21-0. After Manny Rugamba forced and recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Akrum Wadley scored on a 2-yard run to build a 28-0 Hawkeye lead.

It was more than enough for a Hawkeye defense that kept Illinois (3-8, 2-6) bottled up all game.

The Hawkeyes conclude the regular season by hosting Nebraska on Friday.