SANTA CLARA, Ca. (WCIA) — The Illinois defense had trouble with Cal quarterback Chase Garbers all day, as the Bears beat the Illini 35-20 in the Redbox Bowl.
Garbers went 22/31 for 272 yards with four touchdowns on the day.
Monday was the first game all season that Illinois didn’t force once single turnover.
“That’s what we strive to do every game and the fact that we weren’t able to execute it today is disappointing,” Sydney Brown said.
“You know turnovers is a big key to the game,” Dele Harding said. “It was nothing they were doing in particular, it more so us, we just couldn’t get it done today.”
Brandon Peters played well for the Illini, going 22/37 through the air for 273 yards and one touchdown. He added 68 yards on ground, that led the team. He wasn’t perfect, he had a pick and a fumble but it was his will to win, even late, that impressed his teammate and head coach most, in what’s been an up and down season for the Illini signal caller and the program.
“That’s the perfect example of leadership and doing whatever it takes to win the game,” Donny Navarro said.
Down two scores with 2:25 to play, Brandon Peters wasn’t ready to quit. The Illini quarterback scrambled for 16 yards on fourth down, coming up just short of the marker. He had to be helped off the field after diving for the mark.
“I think that last play of him diving and actually getting the first down, showed a lot,” Reggie Corbin said.
The turnover on downs ended any chance of a comeback. Peters and the Illini offense actually outgained the Bears in total yards by 55 but Cal turned all five of its redzone chances into touchdowns. Peters reflected on an up and down season after transferring from Michigan over the summer.
“I never expected it to go this well honestly,” Peters said. “Coming in like a month before the season started, everything played out amazing and the guys on the team really helped on this process you know and I feel like I have a solid home now.”
“Our football team has come a long ways,” Lovie Smith said. “We’re disappointed in the loss of course but we’re going to go into next season with that play that Brandon tried to make on fourth down. When he says that he’s found a home, he’s found a home here for sure.”
Illinois finish the season 6-7 overall.