CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Brandon Peters wasn’t ruled out for this weekend’s game but it’s not likely the Illinois quarterback will see the field, according to head coach Bret Bielema. Peters went out late in the first quarter against Nebraska in the season opener on Saturday after being sacked, he didn’t return to the game after taking a cart to the locker room.
Rutgers transfer Artur Sitkowski entered the game and played well, completing 12 of his 15 passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns. After a tough true freshman season with the Scarlet Knights that saw the 6-foot-5 quarterback throw 18 interceptions to just four scores, Sitkowski was impressive in his Illini debut.
“Art came in, he’s got a very strong personality in there, the guys knew from what he had done in camp and the way he carries himself, they expected him to come in and play well and that’s what he did,” Illinois offensive coordinator Tony Petersen said.
“I’ve been through a lot at Rutgers, went through a lot of up and downs but I learned a lot from that,” Sitkowski said. “I learned a lot from my failures, and that’s what life’s all about, getting yourself back and going so I’m just really happy, it was a great team win.”
With Peters out, Petersen said walk-on Division II transfer Ryan Johnson is now the third string QB. He joined the team this year out of Northern Michigan.
Peters wasn’t the only guy banged up against the Huskers. Linebacker Calvin Hart Jr. went down late in the game and didn’t return, helped off the field by trainers without putting much weight on his leg. Bielema said the sophomore transfer from North Carolina State was awaiting test results on Monday and that it didn’t look good for him to be available against UTSA.
On a positive note, Notre Dame transfer Jafar Armstrong is making progress to make a return to practice this week, recovering from an injury. He could be available soon, along with highly touted recruit Marquez Beason, who spent most of training camp trying to get healthy. Meanwhile, fellow receiver Brian Hightower’s journey back to the field could take longer, according to Bielema. A soft tissue injury has sidelined the Miami transfer.
Illinois and Nebraska were the only two teams in action over the weekend, meaning the competition was between those two squads for Big Ten Player of the Week awards. The Illini took a clean sweep, with Sitkowski and Hart Jr. taking offensive and defensive accolades, respectively. Blake Hayes was named the specialist of the week with Deuce Spann tabbed as the freshman of the week after catching a 45-yard pass that was downed at the one to set up a touchdown. The redshirt freshman has permanently moved from quarterback to wide receiver.