CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Everything looked to be going Illinois’s way Friday night against Maryland, until all of a sudden it all collapsed.
The Illini punted from the Terrapin 45 up by seven points and under five minutes to go, but that is all Taulia Tagovailoa needed to lead Maryland to the win. Overall it was a good rebound game for the Illini defense after scuffling against Virginia, totaling three sacks and two takeaways. But after the Terps tied it, Illinois had a chance to take back the lead with two to go but could not get anything going.
“I told our coaches, ‘Let’s go win this game. Let’s not play for a tie or play safe. Let’s try and win this game,'” says head coach Bret Bielema. “I think it’s important for us as a program to try and win football games, not just play in them. Can’t take loss of yardages, can’t take penalties and both of those things happened on that last series.”
The loss drops the Illini to 1-3 and 1-1 in the Big Ten. Freshman Josh McCray and sophomore Casey Washington got on the scoresheet for the first time in their careers. After the disappointing loss, the team is turning their focus to the next game.
“We’re not going to get discouraged,” says Washington. “We’re just going to come back next week and keep working. Sometimes good things take some lessons to be learned in order to be achieved.”
“We didn’t come out the way that we wanted to, but I can tell you one thing,” says senior defensive lineman Jamal Woods. “We have a team that’s going to fight.”
Illinois will be back on Saturday next weekend when they travel to West Lafayette to take on Purdue.