Illinois came out slow last weekend and the best part of the game honestly was the injury to A.J. Bush. M.J. Rivers came into the game and jump started the Illinois offense. Rivers went 9/16 for 105 yards and 2 TDs. Two of those completions were to Edwin Carter, both for touchdowns. Carter is however knocked out for the season. But more on that later. Mike Epstein had 105 yards on 8 carries and led the Illini in rushing. But that is all the good. This was a scrappy win against a FCS opponent. The Illini needed to play better and they didn’t.
Illinois defense had its holes on the run defense in Week 1 and this week Western Illinois was able to expose the Illini through the air, scoring a TD on the first drive. Although the Illini held them without another score till the 4th quarter, this is no way to start the game against an FCS opponent. Now, the best players in the secondary and the line are suspended, so hopefully that changes on Saturday.
Youth is once again showing up for the Illini. It didn’t help that most players with experience were suspended or injured against the Leathernecks. Illinois lost another receiver and Saturday’s lineup should have two receivers that have caught the ball, Ricky Smalling and Sam Mays. Illinois has 2 running backs and a QB with over 130 rushing yards and all running backs have at least 15 touches a game. With the receiving core depleted, expect to see Illinois rely heavily on the rushing game, more on that later this week.
Next Up: University of South Florida