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Illinois 42, WKU 34: Another 4th Quarter Comeback

For the second consecutive week, the Illini score 21 points in the 4th quarter for a come from behind victory.

Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

I guess the Illinois Fighting Illini have decided to become a fourth quarter team, which beats the hell out of the alternative. Much like last week, the Illini entered the fourth quarter trailing their opponent only to score three touchdowns to reclaim the lead.

The game frequently alternated between beautiful and hideous, but ultimately ended the way we all hoped it would. A rather nondescript first half gave way to one of the stranger third quarters in recent memory. Wes Lunt was picking apart the Hilltoppers defense with ease, confidently marching the Illini offense into the red zone before Western Kentucky CB Wonderful Terry stripped the ball out of Malik Turner's hands for a 95 yard fumble recovery touchdown. Wes Lunt then threw his first interception of the season on the next drive, leading to a field goal for WKU, giving the Hilltoppers a 27-21 lead.

But Justin Hardee caught a short pass up the middle and decided "Hey, YAC sure are neat", turned on his afterburners, and bolted 62 yards to the end zone to put the Illini back up 28-27. They wouldn't trail again. The next drive for WKU ended with a Taylor Barton 77 yard pick six that seemed to neuter the underdogs. It wasn't a very pretty game and it gave me more grey hairs than I'd like, but the team has two wins and zero losses, so I'll keep my complaining to a minimum.

Il bueno:

  • Wes Lunt, have yourself a day. The Luntslinger (shut up, I know it's a terrible name) went 35 for 50 (70% completion rate) for 456 yards, three touchdowns, and one pick. That's the fourth highest single game passing yardage total in Illini football history. He's going to be all over the Illini record books by the time he graduates.
  • V'Angelo Bentley. The newly-christened Vanjo had a nice Saturday, returning two punts for 22 yards and recovering the game-clinching fumble.
  • Justin DuVernois. Kind of weird listing him, but he only had to punt once (!) and booted a 52 yarder.
  • The entire receiving corps. When your quarterback throws for over 450 yards, your receivers are going to have great days. Justin Hardee had 110 yards, Geronimo Allison had 97, Malik Turner had 56, and Mikey Dudek had 55. Four receivers, all over 50 yards receiving. I love this new offense.

Il cattivo:

  • We still have zero running game. Josh Ferguson still hasn't shown up yet, only picking up 32 yards on 14 carries. Donovonn Young was slightly better, but 14 carries for 47 yards isn't good enough either. It's going to be a long year if neither can average more than four yards per carry.
  • We still can't tackle. The defense should have had a much better game, but holy shit we cannot wrap up on the first hit. So many missed tackles were exploited for additional yards that the Hilltoppers never should have had in the first place.

Il bruto:

  • Six fumbles. Six. Freaking. Fumbles. We're not going to win many games if we put the ball on the ground six times. We somehow only lost two of the six, but man, that needs to be corrected quickly.
  • Taylor Zalewski. The kicker might be cooked. There's no shame in missing a 50 yarder into the wind, but you have to be able to hit the 34 yarders. Absolutely have to make those. He also kicked the ball out of bounds on a kickoff for the second time this season and our defense is not good enough to give away free field positioning like that. We've only seen backup kicker Ryan Frain once this season, when he booted the ball out of bounds on a kickoff in week one.
  • The DJ. I don't know who the DJ at Memorial Stadium is. I don't know how much they get paid, if they do at all. But they are terrible. I know that it's law to play "Sandstorm" and "Seven Nation Army" at football games. It's in the constitution and everything. But this is 2014. There is zero reason to play "Gangnam Style" or "The Fox" in public. Terrible.
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