MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (WCIA) — Illinois backup quarterback John Paddock came in for an injured Luke Altmyer facing fourth and long with less than two minutes to go in the game, and led the Illini offense on a 85-yard game-winning drive to beat Minnesota 27-26 on Saturday.
When Paddock’s number was called, the Illini back up quarterback was more than ready for his moment.
“When did the moment hit me? I don’t think it has hit me yet,” Paddock said after the game.
Paddock hadn’t thrown a pass in a game five weeks, but entered with Illinois down five facing a fourth and 11 from their own 15 yard line with just 1:24 left in the game. The Ball State transfer wasn’t fazed, completing all three of his passes for 85 yards, capping it off with a 46-yard game winning throw to Isaiah Williams.
“It felt really good to be able to do that and just felt like I was going to be ready this whole year no matter when my number was going to be called,” Paddock said. “And it got called at a pretty crazy time but it ended up working out pretty good for us.”
“Doing what he did, that’s hard to do and that just shows you his confidence and swagger that he got and it’s hard for people to see on the outside but how he was in the huddle,” Williams said. “Like he came in and said, ‘I got you, you can trust me.'”
Williams catching that last pass was a full circle moment for the receiver after his costly fumble earlier in the fourth quarter. The turnover gave the Gophers momentum, but Williams kept his composure through the adversity.
“I just had all the confidence in the world going back on that field after that fumble, just trusting the plan,” Williams said.
“When that ball went on the ground, I think a lot of people would be like, ‘Oh my gosh,'” head coach Bret Bielema said. “But I literally didn’t say anything to him because I knew he would take care of himself. Like he just continues to impress me on a daily basis, who he is what he stands for and what he represents.”
Illinois moves to 4-5 on the season, and 2-4 in the Big Ten. Next up, they host Indiana at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 11 at 11 a.m.