CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois offensive coordinator Rod Smith didn’t mince words about Illinois football’s season opening loss at Wisconsin. The Illini didn’t score a point offensively, leaving the Smith in a sour mood all week.
“It’s sickening,” Smith said. “It makes you want to throw up. As bad as we played, as bad as it was, there were still opportunities for plays to be made. I just know it’s unacceptable and we can’t have it. And I got to do a better job of coaching to make sure it doesn’t happen.”
The Illini’s lone touchdown came from the defense, after backup linebacker Tarique Barnes scooped and scored on a fumble from Jake Ferguson. Overall, the offense never got going all night. Mike Epstein’s fumble on the second play of the game got the Illini off on the wrong foot and they played from behind the rest of the way. The turnover gave the Badgers a short field and they took advantage, driving 33 yards in just six plays, scoring a touchdown just three minutes into the game.
“It’s pretty simple, when you don’t score any points offensively and you give up 45 points defensively, no matter how it happened, not a good day at the office,” Illinois head coach Lovie Smith said. “For us, it only counts as one game. Normally you get to the first game and you truly see where you are. We’re not as far along as I hoped we would be, but we still have time to get there.”
Illinois’ offense only accounted for eight first downs, 87 passing yards and 131 rushing. Quarterback Brandon Peters led the ground game, running seven times for 75 yards. No running back had more than 36 yards for the game though. The passing game wasn’t much better. Peters completed just eight of his 19 passes and was sacked twice. Senior Josh Imatorbhebhe led the team in receiving but only had three catches for 26 yards.
“I don’t know if it was adrenaline, the first game, I can’t tell you,” Smith said. “I just know it’s unacceptable. We can’t have it. I’ve got to do a better job coaching to make sure it doesn’t happen. That goes on me. We’ve got to get it done as a staff and make sure our players are doing what we ask of them and carry it from the practice field to the game field, not just on the practice field only.”
Illinois hosts Purdue Saturday morning at 11 a.m. on Big Ten Network. The Illini beat the Boilermakers last year in West Lafayette but Purdue has won eight out of the last ten games in the series at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.