CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Brandon Peters’ confidence is at an all time high this week. The Illinois grad transfer quarterback put the offense on his back, orchestrating a 13 play, 75-yard game winning drive at Michigan State to cap the biggest comeback in school history. It’s the kind of two minute offense that the Illini (6-4, 4-3) struggle to execute earlier this season in losses to Eastern Michigan and Nebraska.
“When the game’s on the line and we practice every week the two-minute drill,” Peters said on Tuesday. “We’ve been taking that super serious and it’s carried over to the game. Just to be able to see that, it means a lot to be able to take it from practice on to the game field.”
Peters completed 22-of-42 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns against the Spartans. The big play was a huge component — not only on the final drive that was capped with a pass to Daniel Barker for the game winning score — but throughout the game. It started with a 46-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass to Josh Imatorbhebhe as time expired in the first half to make it 28-10 Spartans.
The Michigan grad transfer then led the Illini offense to 27 fourth quarter points, fighting through adversity along the way. After cutting the lead to one score late in the fourth, Peters threw an interception that looked to all but seal the Illini’s fate. That was until Sydney Brown picked off Brian Lewerke and returned the pass 76 yards for a touchdown. After a missed extra point by James McCourt that would have tied it, MSU added a field goal to take a 34-30 lead. That’s when Peters went to work in the last drive, converting two fourth down plays, including one 4th and 17 pass that went to Imatorbhebhe for 37 yards.
“You know I made that interception play and I just didn’t let it get to me, I just shook it off,” Peters said. “I knew how much the team needed me to execute and I just did my part. You know we don’t flinch in tough situations like that.”
The victory clinched a bowl berth for Illinois, the first since 2014. Now gets a bye week to prepare for the final two game regular season stretch, starting at Iowa on 11/23. Northwestern visits Memorial Stadium in the finale two days after Thanksgiving.