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Tate, Iowa hand Illinois 10th straight Big Ten loss

Sep 23, 2006 - 7:40 PM CHAMPAIGN, Illinois (Ticker) -- Drew Tate and Iowa did not have to be at their best to defeat lowly Illinois.

Tate threw for 190 yards and a touchdown as the 14th-ranked Hawkeyes beat the error-prone Fighting Illini, 24-7, in the Big Ten Conference opener for both teams.

Tate completed 17-of-27 passes with an interception for the Hawkeyes (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten), who handed the Illini (1-3, 0-1) their 10th consecutive conference defeat.

"It was a hard-fought win," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We're 1-0 in the conference and 4-0 for the month, so we're happy about that."

Ron Zook is 0-9 in Big Ten play with Illinois, which is 1-24 in league action in the past three-plus seasons.

Zook was not helped by a shaky performance by true freshman Juice Williams, who was just 9-of-32 for 161 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions. Williams is the first true freshman to start at quarterback for the Illini since Kurt Kittner in 1998.

"I was excited, coming out of the tunnel with the fans cheering, but that's something that you can't let affect you," Williams said. "You have to go out there and focus on the game, your job."

"He'll get better with time," Zook said. "As he gets more playing time he will continue to improve. The football he's playing now is a lot different than what he is used to."

The Illini turned the ball over four times and Jason Reda missed both of his field-goal attempts.

The game was scoreless until Iowa's Damian Sims scored on a one-yard run with 5:55 left in the second quarter. Albert Young doubled the advantage with a six-yard run just under three minutes later, and one play after Miguel Merrick intercepted Tim Brasic, Tate found tight end Tony Moeaki for a 35-yard touchdown pass for a 21-0 lead with 1:47 to go in the half.

"I didn't have the intensity that I needed right when I came out," Tate said. "I wasn't focused as much as I should have been, like I have been in the past two games that I've played. And I can't do that any more. I felt like I let down the guys in the first quarter, but I got back up in the second quarter. And once we hit the second quarter, we started scoring points."

"I told our team at halftime that we played 25 minutes of good football in the first half and we just let that five minutes get away from us," Zook said. "The thing that I'm proud of about our team is that we came and fought in the second half and came out and fought hard. The game improved and I thought that our defense came out and played exceptionally well."

Devan Moylan's interception of Williams set up Kyle Schlicher's 45-yard field goal with 10:45 to play before Illinois finally got on the board on a 31-yard pass from Williams to Jacob Willis just over a minute later.

"All guys worked well as a team," said Ferentz, whose team hosts top-ranked Ohio State next week. "The run yards a coming a little harder that I'd like so far this season and it won't get any easier next week. Ohio State always has a good defensive unit and I suspect they have one again this year,"

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