<
>

Tate, No. 14 Iowa ease past lowly Illinois

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- No one needed to remind Iowa that the
stakes are about to jump, that No. 1 Ohio State visits next week
and brings a national TV audience with it.

The 14th-ranked Hawkeyes warmed up Saturday by scoring three
touchdowns late in the second quarter en route to a 24-7 victory
over Illinois.

Drew Tate completed 17-of-27 passes for 190 yards to lead an
offense that collected 344. He was intercepted near the goal line
early in the second quarter by Kevin Mitchell, but the Hawkeyes
grabbed control after that.

"The good news is, I don't think we've hit stride yet, or
played our best football -- I hope we haven't," Iowa coach Kirk
Ferentz said. "We going to have to find a way to upgrade that
quickly in the next seven days because we're playing an outstanding
(team). I can't remember Ohio State ever having a bad team."

Damian Sims scored on a 1-yard run with just under six minutes
left in the half after a short punt gave Iowa (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten)
possession at the Illinois 31. Albert Young added a 6-yard run
three minutes later.

Tate then connected with Tony Moeaki for a 35-yard touchdown
with 1:47 left in the half after Miguel Merrick intercepted Tim
Brasic. And just like that, it was 21-0.

Next up are the Buckeyes, who beat No. 24 Penn State 28-6 on
Saturday.

"Everybody knows it's a big game," Merrick said. "There's
going to be a lot of excitement. We can't worry about that."

Young had six catches for 40 yards to go with his team-high 57
yards rushing, and Dominique Douglas add five catches for 64 yards.

Illinois (1-3, 0-1) was unable to move the ball for three
quarters and lost its 10th straight Big Ten game. The Illini
finished with 315 yards, 149 coming during the fourth quarter.

Freshman Isiah Williams started at quarterback for Illinois and
struggled, going 9-of-32 for 161 yards, three interceptions and one
touchdown. It was a steep drop from the previous week, when he
relieved Brasic and threw for 227 yards against Syracuse.

Brasic was 3-of-7 for 33 yards -- all in the closing minutes of
the second quarter. His first pass went right to Merrick at the
Illinois 40, and he spent the second half on the sideline. Pierre
Thomas led the Illini with 50 yards rushing.

"(Williams) will get better," Illinois coach Ron Zook said.
"He'll continue to make improvements."

Zook said he decided Friday to start Williams, although Williams
told reporters he found out on Monday.

He had a rough practice Tuesday and seemed jittery early in the
game, fumbling on the Illini's second play from scrimmage. Illinois
recovered and drove to the 29, where Jason Reda missed a 46-yard
field goal.

"This rush of nerves fell over me," Williams said. "I felt
this pressure to just please everyone. It messed with my brain a
little bit."

Iowa threatened early in the second, driving to the Illinois 16.
But after an 8-yard sack, Tate was intercepted near the goal line
by Mitchell on third-and-15.

Illinois could not take advantage. A 12-yard punt by Kyle Yelton
gave Iowa possession on the Illinois 31 and set up the game's first
touchdown.

The Hawkeyes pulled away from there and Ferentz his 53rd win at
Iowa. That put him in sole possession of second place on the
school's all-time list, ahead of Forest Evashevski and behind
Hayden Fry, who won 143 games.

Now, the focus shifts toward the Buckeyes.

"We still have a lot of practicing to do, a lot of work to
do," wide receiver Kennon Christian said. "It's still kind of
early in the season. Yes, it's an important game, but we just
started Big Ten conference play."

The Hawkeyes rushed for 154 yards, with Sims and Shonn Greene
contributing 55 and 54, respectively. Not a great day on the
ground. But to Tate, there was little reason for concern. He
credited Illinois for containing the running game.

And the Hawkeyes' defense did its job.

The Illini were on their way to their second shutout of the
season before Williams hit Jacob Willis for a 39-yard touchdown
early in the fourth quarter. It was one of few glitches for an Iowa
team that can't afford many next week.

"As an athlete and competitor, this is what you live for,"
Merrick said. "This is why you play the games. Whenever you have
the best, you want to step it up and have a good game."