Iowa football: Full stock report following Week 12 win over Illinois
Iowa is coming out of Week 12 and another win, getting past Illinois with a dramatic 15-13 win in Kinnick Stadium. On Senior Day, the Hawkeyes were able to rally without star Cooper DeJean available, and now the team stands as B1G West champions.
With a 9th win this season, Iowa is now 9-2 and has wrapped up the outright division title with a 6-2 record in league play. The Hawkeyes will end the regular season with a game against Nebraska, but Kirk Ferentz’s team can book a trip to Indianapolis and a game against the winner of Ohio State vs. Michigan.
Here is the latest stock report coming out of Week 12:
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Player of the Week: DB Jermari Harris
Iowa’s defense had a number of players in the mix here, including LB Jay Higgins (12 tackles) and Joe Evans (1.5 TFL, 3 pass breakups, 1 sack for a safety). However, Harris’s work in the defensive backfield was vital and important.
Harris finished the game with 8 tackles, setting a near career-high in the process. Even more remarkable, all 8 tackles were solo stops. He also set another career-high mark with 4 pass breakups to lead an Iowa defense that had 13 for the game.
Without those pass breakups, John Paddock’s efficiency would have been much better. In the end, he was held below 50% passing and went 22-for-47 in the loss by the Illini.
Newcomer of the Week: WR Kaleb Brown
Kaleb Brown has been building toward a breakthrough for a while now, and he finally put everything together in the game against Illinois. After a 3-catch performance and 47 yards of offense against Rutgers, Brown had the best game of his college career with 7 catches for 71 yards in the win over Illinois.
Brown especially provided a glimpse at his full skill set with a catch over the middle and some shifty moves with the ball in his hands:
Kaleb Brown huge gain pic.twitter.com/dToPp2J4TF
— Heavens! (@HeavensFX) November 18, 2023
Brown is the former 4-star WR who began his college career at Ohio State as a member of the 2022 recruiting class. He transferred to Iowa in the offseason, and he’s finally finding his footing as a key target in the offense.
Biggest Surprise: Iowa clinches B1G West title
Kirk Ferentz has produced some improbable seasons in his tenure, but this might be the most improbable of his entire career. The Hawkeyes have 9+ wins for the 10th time under Ferentz, but it’s still hard to put into words how the team got here.
With key contributors Cade McNamara, Luke Lachey and Erick All injured and another key contributor Noah Shannon suspended for much of the season, this Iowa team came together time and time again. That includes the Week 12 win with Cooper DeJean also sustaining a season-ending injury during the week.
Despite all that has occurred, the Hawkeyes leaned into their defense (3rd in the country while allowing 12.4 points per game) and special teams unit while piling up wins in the face of their naysayers. Now, Iowa will get one more chance at the biggest surprise of all: A B1G title with a win over Ohio State or Michigan.
Biggest Concern: B1G title game
Let’s face it. A win over Nebraska would be another notch for the Hawkeyes — and a rivalry win is always important. However, a B1G Championship is what Iowa is really playing for at this point in the season.
While some teams will hit Championship Weekend in search of the College Football Playoff, Iowa is all but eliminated from contention with 2 losses already this season. However, a strong showing in Indianapolis would be a huge accomplishment with everything else that has occurred.
Developing Trend: Deacon Hill’s improvement
Deacon Hill has received his fair share of criticism this season, and some of that is understandable. After all, he completed just 10-of-28 passes in the disastrous loss to Minnesota, but Hill has responded in typical Hawkeye fashion.
Since the loss to the Gophers, Hill has completed at least 64% of his passes in 3 straight games. In that stretch, Hill has thrown for 223 yards and a touchdown against Rutgers and 167 yards and a touchdown against Illinois.
Hill’s touchdown against the Illini came on a particularly nice throw to the back corner of the end zone:
TD IOWA Deacon Hill to Ostrenga pic.twitter.com/5pbwReveAO
— Heavens! (@HeavensFX) November 18, 2023
The struggles of the QB have been well-documented this season, but he also deserves some attention for the growth he has shown down the stretch. Hill has helped the offense weather the storm — and a sometimes stagnant ground game — in key wins this season.
First impressions for Week 13
Iowa heads into the season finale against Nebraska with a shot at a 10th regular-season win and a shot to reclaim the Heroes Trophy after a loss to the Huskers a season ago. Nebraska also enters the game on a 3-game losing streak but in search of a bowl bid.
Matt Rhule’s squad did appear to find some life over the weekend with Chubba Purdy starting vs. Wisconsin. However, Nebraska still squandered a 14-0 lead in another loss for the program.
Heading into the matchup, the opening line for Week 13 included a brutally low point total between the Hawkeyes and Huskers. That is almost a weekly occurrence for Iowa, but the team has thrived in that position this season.