COLLEGE PARK, MD. (WCIA) — Caleb Griffin called game.
The Danville native made a 43-yard field goal as time expired as Illinois upset Maryland 27-24 at SECU Stadium on Saturday afternoon, snapping a two-game losing streak in the first Big Ten win of the season for the Illini.
“No better feeling,” Griffin said on the field, just moments after making the kick.
After the Terrapins (5-2, 2-2 B1G) kicked a game tying field goal with 1:31 remaining in the game, the Illini (3-4, 1-3 B1G) put together a seven-play, 50-yard game winning drive including a 29-yard Luke Altmyer pass to Casey Washington to get the the Illini to the Maryland 42-yard line. Five plays later, Griffin kicked the game winner to put some life into a program that has struggled most of the season, especially offensively. It’s a moment that Griffin won’t forget anytime soon, capping an emotional week filled with loss.
“Thursday, Caleb Griffin wasn’t even at practice, he was at a funeral of a family friend, a relative,” Illinois head coach Bret Bielema said. “For him to get his second walk-off field goal, and it wasn’t a chip shot either. Just very, very impressed with him and what he did.”
“My mom actually lived out here in Baltimore for a few years of her childhood,” Griffin said. “She sent me a picture this morning of her old childhood house, that she hasn’t seen in 30 years. She was like, ‘Thanks for your football experiences to allow me to do this.’ In that moment I kind of teared up. It’s something crazy that my football experience has allowed my family to come together.”
After winning the toss, Illinois deferred to the second half and forced Maryland to punt on its opening possession. Then for just the second time this season against a Power 5 team, they led in a game. Altmyer hit Pat Bryant for a 44-yard touchdown, capping a seven-play, 85-yard opening drive for the Illini. The sophomore quarterback finished the day going 16-for-28 with 206 yards, two touchdowns and interception.
Illinois returns home next Saturday hosting Wisconsin for homecoming in a 2:30 kickoff at Memorial Stadium.