Rapid reaction: Illinois outlasts Rutgers for its first win of 2020
Final score: Illinois 23, Rutgers 20
Brief recap: Rutgers didn’t trail in this game until there were seconds left on the clock and held a double-digit lead multiple times. But Illinois kept fighting back, erasing a 20-10 deficit in the second half. An interception by Nate Hobbs with 1:17 remaining put Illinois in the driver’s seat. The Illini took advantage, winning the game with a 47-yard field goal by James McCourt.
Key player: Quarterback Isaiah Williams was outstanding as a rusher in his first career start. He had 31 carries for 192 yards in the win. As a passer, he struggled, but didn’t make any disastrous mistakes. He completed 7-of-18 passes for 104 yards. He also completed a big-time pass on 2nd-and-18 in the game’s final seconds to set up the game-winning field goal.
Key moment: With under two minutes remaining, Rutgers quarterback Noah Vedral threw the ball behind his receiver as the Scarlett Knights were marching toward field goal range. But the ball was picked off, giving Illinois the chance to with the game with a field goal in the final minute.
Key stat: 100+. Illinois had two rushers clear 100 yards in the win. In addition to Williams, running back Chase Brown carried the ball 17 times for 130 yards. As a team, Illinois rushed for 5.7 yards per carry.
What it means for Illinois: This is a huge win for coach Lovie Smith. The Illini have often struggled to gain traction in recent years under Smith, and falling to 0-4 would have been a rough outcome. Instead, Illinois gets an upset over the Scarlett Knights on the road and get to have some momentum heading into next week.
What it means for Rutgers: This is a disappointing outcome for a Greg Schiano squad that entered this game with some momentum. Rutgers played Ohio State tougher than expected in Week 3 surprised everyone with an upset victory over Michigan State in the season opener. But this is a regression for a team that had been better-than-expected so far in 2020.