Rapid Reaction: Illinois can't follow up last week's upset, falls to Rutgers
Illinois was on top of the college football world last week after upsetting then-No. 7 Penn State on the road.
This week? Not so much.
The Illini welcomed Rutgers to Champaign and tried to repeat last week’s performance. Despite some big plays, Illinois couldn’t get the win and fell to the Scarlet Knights 20-14.
After Art Sitkowski suffered a season-ending arm injury in last week’s win, Brandon Peters jumped back under center for the Illini. He looked good, too, throwing for 190 yards on 14-of-19 passing, including a 52-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Williams.
Rutgers ran a pretty balanced attack against a beatable Illini defense. Noah Vedral completed 10 of 21 passes for 138 yards in the air, while Isaiah Pacheco and Kyle Monangai led the ground game. Pacheco ran for 91 yards and Monangai tallied 77 yards and a touchdown.
For Illinois, it’s another letdown after a big game. In Week 0, the Illini surprisingly beat Nebraska in Champaign, but lost to UTSA in a winnable Week 1 game. Now, they struggled after upsetting a top-10 team last week.
Rutgers looked regrouped after the bye week. The Scarlet Knights lost to Northwestern 21-7 before the week off, and they appeared to have figured out any issues from that game. With the balanced attack and strong defensive performance, it was a much-needed win for Greg Schiano’s group.
Meanwhile, Bret Bielema once again has some questions to answer heading into a tough two-game stretch. The Illini have Minnesota due up next week and, after a week off, head to Iowa Nov. 20. It’s not going to be easy for Illinois to beat either one of those teams before closing out the year against Northwestern Nov. 27.
Rutgers is gearing up to face a good Wisconsin defense next week, and its schedule isn’t exactly easy, either. The Scarlet Knights have the Badgers, Indiana, Penn State and Maryland to close out the season. Can they build off this performance? We’ll have to see.
One thing’s for sure, though. It was a solid performance from Rutgers this week.