CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — With the game hanging in the balance on a 4th & one, the Illini elected to run a pitch play. Just as quickly as the optimism grew to win the game with a last minute touchdown, the game was over as Rutgers picked up it’s first conference win of the season, with a 20-14 victory in Champaign.
“We went with a little belly flip play to Chase (Brown) and they took two off the edge and made it happen so they capitalized on a critical moment,” says Illinois head coach Bret Bielema.
“I mean on that fourth and short everyone believed in the play call, we just didn’t make a play as a unit,” says Brandon Peters, who returned as the starting quarterback today.
After putting up 14 first half points, the offense went cold in the second, getting shutout. Three costly penalties hurt, so did field position as the Illini struggled to do much of anything going for just 81 second half yards. Peters was 14 for 19 with 190 yards.
“The offense kind of shot ourselves in the foot in the second half,” says Peters. “We couldn’t get anything going, the penalties really hurt us. When you lose a game like that, it always hurts.”
A week after the biggest road win in 14 years, the reality of a home loss hits hard with the ups and downs of the season in full effect.
“It’s something we know we have to do, we have to be more consistent,” says Isaiah Williams, who led the Illini receivers with 67 yards and a touchdown. “Last week we showed what we could do but we’ve got to do it on a consistent basis and that’s the most important thing we can do.”
“Digging deep, digging deeper, digging deeper,” says defensive back Sydney Brown. “With these one possessions games, there’s a lot of lessons to be learned and I think it’s something we’re working on, we’re building on.”
Illinois heads into the final month of the season at 3-6. They’re not technically out of bowl consideration, but the Illini will need to win all three remaining games starting next week at Minnesota.