Illini Inquirer’s Jeremy Werner and Joey Wagner are at Memorial Stadium for Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. kickoff between Illinois and Chattanooga, which will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
We will provide frequent updates before and during the game here in our live updates, so refresh frequently!
Illinois 31, Chattanooga 0; final: Illinois cruised to a perfect non-conference record behind a dominant first half against Chattanooga on Thursday.
Illinois (3-1) travels to Wisconsin next Saturday in head coach Bret Bielema’s return to Madison.
Illinois 31, Chattanooga 0; 4:56 left 3Q: Isaiah Williams had come close to breaking a screen pass for a touchdown most of the game. Late in the third quarter, he did it.
Quarterback Tommy DeVito hit Williams on a short pass and the elusive wide receiver took it 63 yards for a touchdown.
Williams has 103 receiving yards and DeVito has 329 passing yards.
That should do it for the starters.
Illinois 24, Chattanooga 0; half: Well, that was dominating. Illinois absolutely cruised to a 24-0 lead.
The Illini have 334 yards of total offense compared to 84 for Chattanooga.
The second half should be a good chance for Illinois to get some backups in the game. The interesting storyline? Illinois has gone 10 quarters at home without allowing a touchdown.
HALF: #illini 24, Mocs 0 pic.twitter.com/jutlkcaD6I
Illinois 24, Chattanooga 0; 5:52 left 2Q: Have a day, Pat Bryant. The Illini sophomore wideout has five receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown so far. That also means that quarterback Tommy DeVito is having a day.
The duo connected on a 17-yard touchdown pass to extend a commanding lead over Chattanooga. Illinois has 232 passing yards and it’s not yet halftime.
Illinois 17, Chattanooga 0; 9:14 left 2Q: The Illinois defense was dangerously close to allowing its first touchdown at home this season. Chattanooga running back Ailym Ford broke loose on a 39-yard run but was chased own by Quan Martin and Seth Coleman to stop him at the 16-yard line. On the very next play, Martin intercepted quarterback Preston Hutchinson to end the threat.
This, of course, all came after Illinois defensive lineman Keith Randolph almost recovered a fumble for a touchdown before the ball was punched out by Hutchinson.
On the next Illinois offensive possession, quarterback Tommy DeVito comfortably operated in the RPO game before some trickery ended with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Michael Marchese. DeVito handed the ball off to Reggie Love, who flipped it to Miles Scott, who flipped it back to DeVito before DeVito found Marchese wide open for a score.
Illinois has 237 total yards compared to 85 for Chattanooga.
Illinois 10, Chattanooga 0; 2:39 left 1Q: The Pat Bryant game? The Pat Bryant game.
The Illini wide receiver has four receptions for 90 yards and had a 79-yard touchdown called back due to penalty. Illinois stalled out in the red zone and settled for a 34-yard field goal by Caleb Griffin.
The defense, meanwhile, has allowed 14 total yards and has not allowed a Chattanooga first down.
Illinois 7, Chattanooga 0; 12:15 left 1Q: The first Illinois offensive drive of the game looked easy.
Illinois used five plays to go 64 yards for a touchdown. Running back Chase Brown, who had 24 rushing yards on the drive, punched in a 9-yard touchdown run. Quarterback Tommy DeVito and wide receiver Pat Bryant connected twice for a total of 40 yards and picked apart the Chattanooga defense with the RPO game.
6 p.m.: The Illini offense has been a bit of a mixed bag through the first three games of the season.
Illinois is moving the ball up and down the field on a fairly consistent basis. The Illini are averaging 439 yards of total offense, up from 329.8 a year ago. The rushing attack, led by star Chase Brown, is averaging 224 yards per game, up from 173.6 a season ago. The most noticeable improvement is the passing game, where the Illini are averaging 215 yards per game, up from 156.2 a season ago.
Yes, the Illini will see significantly more challenging defenses (Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan) when Big Ten play starts in full force. But the way the offense has moved the ball during the first three games is at least encouraging, suggesting a shell of a productive offense exists in Champaign-Urbana.
The mistakes, penalties, the inability to execute in key situations, certain calls offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. wants back and turnovers are stopping the offense from hitting full stride and punching the ball in the end zone. Those issues likely cost a win at Indiana and a very realistic chance of walking into Wisconsin 4-0 on Oct. 1 with a good bit of national media attention for both the start and head coach Bret Bielema’s return to Madison.
Namely, Illinois focused on cleaning up the turnovers during the offseason. Illinois has eight turnovers in the last two games (nine, if you include a Brian Hightower lateral at the end of the Indiana game as time expired).
“Our guys worked,” Lunney said. “That’s the way you get better is to work. Both mentally and physically there’s been work done. There hasn’t been a real specific, other than the emphasis of the bal security — which is a huge one — there hasn’t been a real mud puddle that we’re trying to stomp out. We’ve got things fixed here, small components at a time. Just the little detail here or a technique here, a decision here or a scheme here. It’s all those things combined. The most obvious and clearest thing for us has been to address the ball security issues because we just can’t turn the ball over like that and be a functional offense.”
CHAMPAIGN — As Illinois rounds the corner to conference play, it has a chance to do something it hasn’t done since 2011: Go unbeaten in non-conference play.
First, though, Illinois (2-1) must beat Chattanooga (3-0), which is ranked No. 9 in the FCS polls. Illinois is a heavy favorite (-21) in the game but there was enough strangeness in college football last week to make this matchup an interesting talking point.
Northwestern lost to Southern Illinois last Saturday in another FCS against Big Ten West team. Missouri State took No. 10 Arkansas into the fourth quarter. Illinois should have the talent to beat the Mocs in a rare Thursday night game, but Northwestern likely would have said the same thing entering last Saturday.
The Illini are 17-0 all time against FCS teams, but head coach Bret Bielema is making sure his team doesn’t get too far ahead of itself before a Bielema’s return to Madison (Wisc.) next Saturday against the Badgers. Illinois is coming off the first of two open weeks and has not played since Sept. 10. Chattanooga played on Saturday in a game that finished around 8:30 p.m. central time.
“We’ll have our work cut out for us,” Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters said. “This is going to be a big game. Any time you’re playing up a conference, we’re going to get their best shot. If we’re doing what we’re supposed to do then we’ll give them ours as well. It should be a fun, competitive game Thursday night.”
Added Illini offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr.: “I think they all understand that any given Saturday it’s fair game across the country. I think that’s just becoming more and more common; not just within divisions but that’s just the way college football is. Any given Saturday, you don’t know what’s going to happen so you want to bring your best each Saturday. We certainly want to do that on Thursday.”
Notes: Hall of Famer Dick Butkus is in attendance for tonight’s game.
The 2022 class of the Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame will be honored with an on-field recognition during the game and induction on Friday at 6 p.m. at State Farm Center. The class includes: Jody Alderson Braskamp (Swimming & Diving), Becky Beach (Golf/Basketball), Bill Burrell (Football), Harry Combes (Basketball Coach/Basketball), Charlton Ehizuelen (Track & Field), Jeff George (Football), Ron Guenther (Athletics Director/Football), Werner Holzer (Wrestling), Dr. Nell Jackson (Women’s Track & Field Coach), Linda Metheny-Mulvihill (Gymnastics), Ken Norman (Basketball), Jonelle Polk McCloud (Basketball), Dawn Riley (Track & Field), Emily Zurrer (Soccer), and Danielle Zymkowitz (Softball).
Jeremy Werner will be on the WCIA3 pre-game show at 6 p.m.
We’ll have more thoughts coming up. In the meantime, here’s some pregame reading.
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