CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — After falling behind by two scores in the first quarter, Illinois (2-2) went on a 23 point run to take down Florida Atlantic (1-3) on Saturday 23-17.
A turnover on downs and fumble on the Illini’s first two drives led to a field goal and touchdown for the Owls. Some trickery helped break Illinois out of its slump, as a double pitch back to Luke Altmyer helped get Griffin Moore open down the field for a 46-yard touchdown, the first of the tight end’s career.
Illinois found the endzone again before the break, Altmyer taking it himself to put the Illini up heading into half. Despite the strip sack in the first, Altmyer bounced back from a four interception day last week against Penn State. He finished with 303 yards and a touchdown through the air, on top of his rushing score.
“It’s definitely been a week for sure. I learned a lot about myself, not just about on the field but what I’m made of spiritually, mentally emotionally,” Altmyer said. “The people around me really propelled me forward all week and I couldn’t have done it without them.”
“When we have a game that we did and you see a quarterback come back the next week with that same confidence, swagger, getting the juices going, you know you’ve got a leader,” Isaiah Williams said.
The Illinois defense continued to be stingy in the second, forcing a punt and turnover on downs while also grabbing an interception before the Owls found the endzone once more late in the fourth.
Redshirt freshman and Gibson City native Aidan Laughery scored his first collegiate touchdown in the third, scoring from three yards out.
“The feeling is awesome,” Laughery said. “It’s been a long road with injuries and stuff and to finally get into the end zone it’s just awesome.”
Reggie Love III led the Illini rushers with 85 yards, 61 of which came on a single run. Atwood-native Kaden Feagin had the chance to score in the last minutes, but instead fell down inside the 5-yard line so Illinois could kneel the game out.
“I got to believe the big man from Arthur really wanted to get in that end zone,” Bret Bielema said. “To have him have the awareness to get down and win the game was just awesome.”
Illinois heads back out on the road next week, resuming Big Ten play in West Lafayette against Purdue.