Rapid Reaction: Lunt leads Illini to rout
Final: Illinois 52, Kent State 3
Telling stat: Wes Lunt’s 4 TD’s on 11 completions
It didn’t take a whole lot from the Illini signal-caller to lead the Illini to paydirt. Whether it was Geronimo Allison, Josh Ferguson or Tyler White, Lunt found whoever he wanted, whenever he wanted. Amazingly enough he had touchdown passes on three of his first five completions. The Illinois quarterback’s day came to an end after the first series of the second half. A healthy Lunt is usually a successful Lunt. Saturday was no exception.
Key play: Wes Lunt 2-yard pass to Tyler White on opening drive
Interim coach Bill Cubit couldn’t have asked for a better way to start his career in Champaign. A 4-play, 38-yard drive lasted only a minute-and-a-half. An efficient drive probably relieved any pregame jitters from Cubit. Going into Saturday, the offense wasn’t a question mark, but with Cubit’s new standing there was no guarantee that it would look fluid. But it did, and luckily for the Illini, that didn’t change all afternoon.
-Plenty of firsts
Saturday was all about firsts for the Illini. Besides Bill Cubit’s first victory as coach, it was the first time a few Illini skill players got into the end zone. Ke’Shawn Vaughn backed up Josh Ferguson and got his first career score. He could be the back of the future in Champaign. With Lunt’s day over, freshman Chayce Crouch came in and tossed an interception, but followed it up with his first career touchdown pass. And the guy who caught it, Sam Mays, was also a freshman getting his first collegiate touchdown. Sure, it was Kent State, but it was a good opportunity for the Illini underclassmen to get some needed reps.
The Illinois defense was among the Big Ten’s worst in forcing turnovers in 2014. In fact, the group had just seven interceptions last year. On Saturday, the Illini nearly reached half of that total. Tyler Barton, Mason Monheim and Eaton Spence all picked off Colin Reardon once on a day that was all Illini. Illinois will face better quarterbacks in the coming weeks, but flashing some playmaking ability on the defensive end was important.
What it means: Illinois isn’t a complete mess
Illinois had to be happy just to get onto the field. The firing of Tim Beckman a week before the opener could not have been easy to deal with in preparing for the start of the season. Even weirder, the program’s first ever rainout put another odd spin on the opener. The fans were lacking because of the rescheduled game, but the support isn’t high for the program right now. If Lunt and Co. keep putting up monster numbers, the seats will fill in Champaign.
What’s next: vs. Western Illinois
I’m going to make a bold prediction and say that nobody in America will have more touchdown passes than Lunt after the second week of the season. That’s my way of saying, if Illinois’ passing game is clicking against WIU like it was on Saturday, we’re in for another rout.