Illini defense ‘finding its identity’ after improved performance against Maryland


CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — After back-to-back games giving up 37 or more points, the Illinois defense found itself in Friday night’s game against Maryland, only allowing 20 points. There is still a long way to go, through four games, the Illini have the worst statistical defense in the Big Ten in several categories including scoring (allowing 30.3 ppg), passing defense (321.3 yards per game) and total defense (481.5 yards per game). The numbers certainly tell the story of a team that’s 1-3 but defensive coordinator Ryan Walters was encouraged with his unit’s performance against the Terps.

“I thought we played hard, I liked what we were doing from a communication standpoint, pre-snap and in-between series,” Walters said. “I thought we played physical at times and the mental errors were way down. I definitely think it’s something we can build off of, there’s a lot of good things on the tape, a lot of good lessons learned, we’re starting to develop an identity as a defense.”

Despite only scoring 20 points, Maryland was still able to rack up 481 yards of offense. Illinois combatted that by forcing three fumbles (recovering two) and by getting off the field. The Terps were just 2 of 10 on 3rd down, an area that the Illini had struggled mightily with so far this season.

Illinois will once again be tested this weekend at Purdue. The Boilermakers are fifth in the league in scoring and yards per game, averaging 38 and 487 per game, respectively.

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