Iowa’s road finale is fitting symbolism for how the 2020 season has transpired.

Iowa (5-2) trailed 14-0 in the second quarter but resoundingly rebounded with 35 consecutive points to defeat Illinois (2-4) and capture its fifth straight victory.

Saturday’s contest was a microcosm for an Iowa team which began the season in an 0-2 hole. Just like the start of the season, Saturday’s game against the Fighting Illini was far from pretty. But Iowa showed poise and character to emphatically bounce back.

There’s a tangible bond that has strengthened and heightened Iowa’s chemistry during this run.

“The guys are having fun right now,” Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Really proud of what they have accomplished.”

The biggest individual development on Saturday by far came from quarterback Spencer Petras. It has been an uneven season for the highly touted Petras, but he put together his most spirited performance of the season in the comeback.

Petras began with just 9 passing yards in the first quarter but ended up completing 18 of 28 passes for 220 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 165.5 rating. Petras connected with Sam LaPorta in the second quarter, Ihmir Smith-Marsette in the third quarter, and Shaun Beyer in the fourth quarter for his touchdowns.

Yes, it was against Illinois, but this showing should at least provide some hope to Iowa fans that Petras can fulfill his potential.

Iowa’s winning streak has coincided with excellence in all three facets of the game and Saturday was no different.

In addition to Petras’ breakthrough, Iowa ‘s rushing attack dominated again. Iowa tallied 204 yards on the ground. In addition to the one-two punch of Tyler Goodson (92 yards) and Mehki Sargent (54), Smith-Marsette added 44 yards and a touchdown rushing.

Many of Goodson’s carries came out of the Wildcat formation, with much success. We’ll see if this strategy carries over, but it certainly would be interesting to see if Goodson has the arm to make defenses pay through the air as well.

The rushing game has been the heart and soul of Iowa’s offense all season. It’s a testament to Goodson, Sargent and the offensive line that the Hawkeyes have been so imposing on the ground.

After giving up two first half touchdowns, the Iowa defense clamped down in the second half to only allow only a late touchdown with the game already out of reach.

Junior defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon, who notched 1.5 tackles for loss, deserves serious consideration for B1G Defensive Player of the Year. Nixon is a bona fide NFL prospect.

Nixon’s steadying presence helped Iowa hold opponents to only 15.2 points per game in the past five weeks.

Nixon wasn’t about to let Iowa feel sorry for itself after those back-to-back losses. Instead, he demonstrated the leadership that coaches crave from their star players.

“We can either fold or we can fight,” Nixon said. “We’re going to continue to fight.”

As for special teams, senior kicker Keith Duncan drilled both of his field goals, which came in the second quarter, to trim the deficit to one heading into halftime. With each conversion, the reliable Duncan continues to reinforce why he could be bound for the NFL.

Iowa’s mature response in the final three quarters showcased what Iowa has developed into: One of the most mentally tough teams in the nation.

Granted, that’s a consolation prize because Northwestern is going to represent the West in the B1G title game.

It’s a real shame that only two losses by a combined five points separate Iowa from being undefeated. A possible Iowa-Ohio State matchup in the conference championship would’ve been a tantalizing showdown.

Even though that won’t happen, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit was correct in his assessment prior to the game that Iowa’s resurgence is one of college football’s great stories in 2020. This has been an unprecedented year across the college football landscape. Best believe, people in Iowa will fondly reminisce about this season for quite some time.

It wouldn’t been so easy for Iowa to check out after those heartbreaking narrow losses to Purdue and Northwestern. Instead, with these five consecutive wins, they’ve set an excellent foundation to build on for next season.

Saturday showcased once again for the Hawkeyes that it’s never too late to turn things around.

“That’s why you keep pressing,” Ferentz said. “That’s why you stay together. You want to keep your eyes forward.”

And if Iowa knocks off Wisconsin in the regular-season finale, fans will be even more excited that something special is brewing for 2021.