Rapid Reaction: Illinois rolls past WIU
Final: Illinois 44, Western Illinois 0
Telling stat: WIU’s 1 first-half first down
It was a rough go for the Leatherneck offense, to say the least. It took until the end of the first half for Western Illinois to get a first down. Trenton Norvell couldn’t do much of anything against the Illini defense. It’s never a good sign when your first five possessions are three-and-outs.
Key play: Lunt responds from INT with 3rd down conversion
It might seem odd to pick a first quarter third-down conversion as the key play of a game, but Wes Lunt wasn’t exactly clicking on all cylinders early. He threw an ugly interception on the second series of the game and needed to bounce back. He found his go-to guy Geronimo Allison to get into the WIU end zone and set up the first of many, many touchdowns for Lunt and the Illini offense. Illinois didn’t want the Leathernecks to gain any confidence, and Lunt’s big early throw squashed that notion.
-Tyler Barton with two picks
A week after the Illini safety got on the board with his first pick of the season, he followed up his Week 1 showing with two more. Sure, Barton did his damage against an FCS quarterback who couldn’t find receivers all afternoon, but he showed his ball-hawking skills in a major way. This is a defense that hasn’t had a player record three interceptions in a season since 2007. Illinois lacked playmakers on the defensive end last year, and with Jihad Ward still getting back to full strength, the unit could use a lot more of that from Barton come Big Ten time.
-Chunky Clements huge
The junior nose tackle was everywhere for the Illini. It seemed like whenever there was a play blown up in the backfield, it was Chunky’s doing. He flashed his potential last year with six TFL’s and with the way WIU was blocking him, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see him reach that total by day’s end. As previously mentioned, any and all Illini defensive playmakers are welcome.
What it means: Illinois can D up
This wasn’t exactly a non-existent Leatherneck offense the Illini was going up against. It was coming off a 33-point game, but Illinois made sure there was no offensive momentum to be had in Champaign. Mason Monheim appears to have some help on the defensive end. That’s three points allowed in eight quarters, by the way. That hasn’t been said much in recent memory.
What’s next: vs. Memphis
Another high-powered effort from the Illini offense would be a big lift. Lunt completed 20 passes in the first 20 minutes, but he still wasn’t perfect. He should’ve had two picks if not for a dropped overthrown pass. Lunt knows he can be better, and if he is, the Illini will be in line for another rout.