The Lovie Smith era, which kicked off last weekend with a dominant win over Murray State, had a slightly different feel to it this Saturday. Although the energy in Memorial Stadium was more electric than it has been in years, the Orange and Blue were not able to put up a consistent effort and dropped their first game of the year to UNC, 48-23. Let's appreciate the fourth star of the game for a moment, though: the fans. It was officially a sellout in Champaign on Saturday, the first time that's happened since 2011.
HOME. pic.twitter.com/o231hJ8UtA— Illini Football (@IlliniFootball) September 11, 2016
Having fun at the Illini game all sold out 60670 tonight pic.twitter.com/Iyr8SR3bfg— Bill Wiemers (@BasketballIlini) September 11, 2016
Although the result isn't what the Illini wanted, it was nice to see the support and energy that the fanbase brought. Unfortunately North Carolina's offensive weapons also brought some energy, as two of them made our Players of the Game list. Below we break down and rank them hockey-style.
Third Star: Ke'Shawn Vaughn
Despite the loss, Vaughn still had a strong effort from the backfield. He ripped off a 65-yard run on the second play from scrimmage to get the Illini off to a quick 7-0 start.
You just look faster in all-orange.@ThaLa5tKing knows what we're talking about.— Illinois on BTN (@IllinoisOnBTN) September 10, 2016
More >> https://t.co/nE4hKfy6j5 https://t.co/SXcl018Ztm
That play gave Vaughn more yards this week than he accumulated all of last week against Murray State. Ke'Shawn continued his strong night with two more long runs of over ten yards. He had 107 rushing yards at halftime but slowed down significantly in the second half. He will have to be a key part of the Illinois offense this season if they want to be successful in Big Ten play.
Second Star: T.J. Logan
Logan, perhaps the Tar Heels' second-best receiver behind Ryan Switzer, had himself a night. He finished with 161 all-purpose yards including one receiving touchdown and a kickoff return of 58 yards. Logan had a rushing touchdown last week against Georgia and added to his versatile repertoire this week against the Illini.
Through five quarters, 5 minutes and 50 seconds, T.J. Logan has been UNC's best player this season. Impressive start for him.— Andrew Carter (@_andrewcarter) September 11, 2016
It was an underrated moment of the game, but Logan also drew a personal foul penalty on Illinois that allowed the UNC drive to continue. It eventually ended in a touchdown which added to the Tar Heel lead and helped put the game out of reach. It appears Logan will be a pivotal part of their offense this season.
First Star: Mitch Trubisky
The undisputed first star of the game was UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Although he was still an underclassman last year and sat on the bench behind Marquise Williams, Trubisky was a force to be reckoned with on Saturday in Champaign. He threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns against Lovie's Illini D, but perhaps more impressive were his two rushing scores that helped seal the Tar Heel victory.
He didn't turn the ball over once and went 19-24 on Saturday. The Illinois defensive line was able to penetrate and create pressure at several points throughout the game, but Trubisky was simply too elusive and managed to escape several tough situations and definitely deserved player of the game honors. UNC looks like they've found themselves a quarterback.
Next week the Illini will welcome in Western Michigan. The Broncos just beat Northwestern in Evanston, so it won't be an easy task to pick up the victory as Lovie Smith and company try to rebound from this Week Two defeat.