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Illinois 28, Youngstown State 17: An Ugly Win Is Still A Win

A strong 4th quarter saves the Fighting Illini from embarrassment.

Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

For an uncomfortably large portion of this game, it looked like the Fighting Illini were bound for an incredibly embarrassing loss to Youngstown State. That would be the worst possible start to the season for Tim Beckman, who absolutely needs the easy wins to stay employed.

With 11 minutes left to play, the Illini were down 17-14 and looking outclassed. But Wes Lunt and the offense flipped the switch, rattling off fourteen unanswered points while the defense kept the Penguins in check. It wasn't a very pretty game, but I'll happily take an ugly win over a pretty loss any time.

Il buono:

  • V'Angelo Bentley proved he belongs in the discussion for best returner in the conference, breaking out for a massive 67-yard kickoff return in the second quarter that would lead to the first points of the season.
  • Wes Lunt, after shaking off the rust. Lunt started slow, but his 4th quarter made up for it and his end game numbers look pretty damn good: 24/38 for 284 yards and four touchdowns. He'll need to play better in the future, but that's a pretty nice first game in the right orange jersey.
  • Austin Teitsma and the defensive line. One of the worst units in all of football last year have at least improved enough this offseason that they were able to womp on Youngstown State.
  • The freshmen receivers. Malik Turner and Mikey Dudek each came away with important receptions, combining for seven catches, 102 yards, and one TD. Burn those redshirts.

Il cattivo:

  • The first three quarters. Let's just not talk about them again.
  • The complete lack of a running game. Josh Ferguson more or less made the offense work last year, but he was practically non-existent in the opener. Ferguson ran for 43 yards on 11 carries. Donovonn Young only had 35 yards on 8 carries himself. Those numbers need to go up.

Il bruto:

  • Time of possession. Youngstown State absolutely dominated the Illini in time of possession, 40:00 to 19:49. That is simply unacceptable and needs to change or we will get stomped come conference play.
  • The announcing team. From constantly being amazed at how hot it gets in Central Illinois in August to calling him "Robert Ebert" to insisting the Illini have now won nine straight season openers (Missouri never happened, I guess), the Illini weren't the only rusty group on the Big Ten Network today.