Illini 24, WMU 7: A quick read

Illini 24, WMU 7: A quick read

Play of the game: With Illinois leading 17-7 in the fourth quarter and its offense sputtering in the absence of quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, Western Michigan was driving to cut the lead to a field goal before Ashante Williams intercepted an Alex Carder pass and raced 60 yards for a 24-7 lead. It's the second straight game the Illini returned an interception for a touchdown. Terry Hawthorne had a pick-six in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

Numbers game: Minus-6

Rushing yards the Broncos had against the suffocating Illini defense. It was the first time the Illini held an opponent to negative rushing yards since the home opener 14 years ago, when Middle Tennessee State had minus-9. The seven points by the Broncos were the fewest the Illini allowed to an FBS opponent since losing 6-3 to UCLA in 2003.

What it means

Illinois has won 15 straight home openers and it's meant great things (Rose Bowl after 2007 season) and not-so-great things (2-9 and winless in the Big Ten in 2005). Remember, the Illini started 6-0 last year, only to lose six straight — a stretch that got Ron Zook fired. The win gives the coaches and the players a chance to celebrate and exhale after the craziness and uncertainty that ensued after Zook's dismissal and Beckman's hiring.

What's next

A trip to the desert to play an Arizona State team that was picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12 South. It won't have the buzz of last year's night game between a pair of power-conference up-and-comers, but it's another opportunity for the young coaching staff and its team to feel good about itself by picking up a win on the road. The Sun Devils are breaking in a new staff, too, so there's a lot of unknowns.

Categories (3):Illini Sports, Football, Sports

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JimOATSfan wrote on September 01, 2012 at 8:09 pm

The 6-3 loss to UCLA in the Rose Bowl in 2003 is the only Illini game I've been able to attend since graduating. Flew in from Boston too. Still got the pictures and remember not knowing if the last second field goal attempt was good or not because of our seats on the goal line.  Pasadena was awesome (LA's first suburb), and recommend a visit to all.

Great first game in 2012. Go Illini!