Listen to this article

CHAMPAIGN — Illinois football's first win of the 2020 season brought with it a couple of individual accolades.

Isaiah Williams and James McCourt on Monday were recognized as Big Ten Freshman of the Week and Special Teams Player of the Week, respectively, for their roles in the Illini's comeback 23-20 victory at Rutgers.

Williams established a new program rushing record for quarterbacks in his first collegiate start at the position, dashing for 192 yards and a touchdown and contributing another 104 yards through the air.

He's Illinois' first Big Ten Freshman of the Week since Oct. 17, 2016, when Patrick Nelson took the honor. That, coincidentally, also came after a win over Rutgers, against whom Nelson accumulated 14 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and 0.5 sack.

McCourt returned from a two-week mandated absence because of COVID-19 contact tracing and converted three field goals against the Scarlet Knights. The last was the biggest, a 47-yard shot with 3 seconds remaining to secure the triumph.

McCourt is the Illini's first Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week since Blake Hayes on Sept. 23, 2019. In a 42-38 loss to Nebraska on that date, Hayes punted eight times at an average of 46 yards, including three punts of 50 or more yards.

The last time Illinois bagged two Big Ten honors in a single week also was the last time coach Lovie Smith's team won before Saturday's success in New Jersey. Sydney Brown and Josh Imatorbhebhe acquired co-Defensive Player of the Week and co-Offensive Player of the Week, respectively, following the Illini's 37-34 win over Michigan State.

Colin Likas is the preps coordinator at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at, or on Twitter at @clikasNG.

College/Prep Sports Reporter

Colin Likas covers Illinois football and high school sports at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).

Trending Videos