CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — The Illinois offensive identity starts with Chase Brown, the nation’s leading rusher through three games with 496 yards. But for the Illini to fully maximize their potential, the passing game has to improve, especially the vertical downfield threat. The Illini (2-1, 0-1 B1G) rank 12th in the Big Ten in passing offense, averaging just 215 yards per game through the air.

“That’s Coach Geo’s (George McDonald) big thing right now, just making game changing plays, that’s our main focus, just pushing the ball down the field vertical,” Illinois sophomore receiver Pat Bryant said.

Bryant is second on the team in receiving yards with 147, just 10 behind Isaiah Williams at the top of the depth chare for the Illini. Bryant has the longest passing play of the season at just 43 yards. It’s all part of a learning process for the Illini under first year offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Junior.

“He’s (Bryant) obviously a very important part of what we’re doing offensively, he’s earned that right,” Lunney Jr. said. “There’s glimpses and there’s moments, there’s actually even quarters or parts of the game where we play offense and it looks like it needs to look and then there’s moments that it doesn’t and we’ve got to get more consistent.”

Overall, Illinois ranks 88th in the country in scoring offense, averaging 27.3 points per game. The Illini welcome Chattanooga to Champaign for the first Thursday night game in Memorial Stadium history in a 7:30 p.m. kickoff on Big Ten Network.