Iowa beats Illinois 63-0, tying worst margin of defeat in Illini history

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Iowa’s Noah Fant tries to elude Illinois’ Cameron Watkins on Saturday in Champaign. Holly Hart/AP

CHAMPAIGN — Saturday was a historic day for Illini football. Only it was the wrong kind of history.

Illinois lost to Iowa 63-0, tying the school’s largest margin of defeat. It matched a 63-0 loss to the University of Chicago in 1906.

“We didn’t play well in any phase,” Illinois coach Lovie Smith said. “Starting with coaching, we thought we had the team prepared. We weren’t. They outperformed us in every way.

“We’re not a good football team right now. There are some scars that will stay with you.”

Illinois (4-7, 2-6 Big Ten) turned the ball over four times, leading to 14 Iowa points.

AJ Bush completed 12 of 28 passes for 82 yards and two interceptions. Ra’Von Bonner carried the ball 21 times for a career-high 111 yards.

The Illini’s top rusher, Reggie Corbin, left the game last week with an injured ankle and appeared to re-injure it in the first half. He carried the ball once before leaving with -minus-4 yards.

Nate Stanley was 13-for-21 for 178 yards and three touchdowns for the Hawkeyes (7-4, 4-4), who snapped a three-game skid. Mekhi Sargent and Toren Young added two rushing touchdowns each.

Stanley threw an interception on the second play of the game, and Iowa punted on the next series. But the floodgates soon opened. In the next 18 minutes, the Hawkeyes scored five touchdowns.

“A lot of man coverage today, a lot of zone a week ago,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “A lot of that stuff is just how things shake out, but again, we’re going to be a better team any time we get our better guys involved.”

Stanley’s touchdown passes went to tight end Noah Fant (who played sparingly last week, much to the chagrin of many Iowa fans) and T.J. Hockenson.

“I don’t know if there were any major conversations, but we’re a better team, obviously, when our tight ends are involved,” Ferentz said. “Noah had a good week. The plan worked out well today, and it was good to see him involved and helping our team move the ball. It was a really productive day for him.”

Sargent carried 17 times for 121 yards, and Young rushed 14 times for 67 yards. Kyle Groeneweg returned a punt for a touchdown after Illinois’ first series of the second half.

The Hawkeyes outgained the Illini 400-231, but the Illini had the ball about 2 minutes, 30 seconds longer. Iowa was penalized just once for 15 yards. Illinois was flagged seven times for 81 yards.

Ferentz earned his 150th career victory at Iowa, making him the fifth coach in Big Ten history to win 150 conference games. He joins Woody Hayes (206), Amos Alonzo Stagg (199), Bo Schembechler (194) and Joe Paterno (162).

The Illini needed to upset Iowa, which was a 14-point favorite, and Northwestern next week to become bowl-eligible, but that’s not in the cards.

Illinois hasn’t played in a bowl since

Dec. 26, 2014, when it lost to Louisiana Tech in the Heart of Dallas Bowl under Tim -Beckman.

Iowa closes out the regular season hosting Nebraska on Friday.

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