The Hawkeyes made it clear from the get-go: Deacon was the hill they were going to die on. And against Rutgers, their faith was rewarded with a career-best performance from Hill.

He passed for 223 yards, a career high. And led the Iowa offense to 402 total yards of offense in the unit’s best showing all season against Rutgers.

“If you go back to Michigan State when this first happened I think there’s been growth,” Hill said postgame. “I think that’s the biggest thing is just seeing that growth is what gives me confidence. … I’m talking to Spence, Cade, Coach Bud, Brian and they’ve all been there just helping me through everything. Coach Bud always tell me, ‘You’re here for a reason — so trust that.'”

“Talking about resiliency. I think, you know, that’s the first word I would use with him,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I’m guessing he’s probably been hearing a lot of negative stuff out there. So instead of worrying about that he’s just been focused on trying to get better, working hard with the coaches and practicing better. You hope that’s how it works for everybody. And he certainly is right at the front of the list on that.”

“Our guys are young, and he’s definitely growing in the past few weeks,” Nico Ragaini said. “I’m proud of him. How he played today and that was definitely our best game as a unit and like I said, we just got to keep going off it today and keep building.”

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Rutgers defensive lineman Aaron Lewis, back, stops Iowa quareterback Deacon Hill, front, during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Bryon Houlgrave)