Welcome to the TCR GameThread! The Fighting Illini are hosting Western Michigan this afternoon at Memorial Stadium, and Steve Bourbon (@steve_bourbon) will be covering the action for us. Make sure to refresh this page throughout the game for updates and analysis on the Orange and Blue.
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We'll have a recap up shortly after the game concludes; all post-game discussion should take place there. Go Illini!
While it would have been incredible to beat North Carolina last week in front of a sold-out Memorial Stadium, it would have been a pretty major upset to beat the Tar Heels a week ago. Moving on from that loss, this week's contest against Western Michigan will be a true barometer for how good this Illinois team will be in 2016. The Broncos already knocked off Northwestern in Evanston, and head coach PJ Fleck has a program that figures to contend for the MAC Championship this season. I'm looking for more creativity and effectiveness out of the offense for Illinois today. Wes Lunt played one of the worst games of his career against North Carolina, and other than a long touchdown run from Ke'Shawn Vaughn to start the game, Illinois failed to get traction offensively for much of the game. How will the Illini respond to the first loss of the season? Let's find out.
4:41 1st Quarter: First piece of action after each team trades punts is the Illini opt to go for it on fourth down and 1 from the Western Michigan 38-yard line. Tre Nation is stuffed for a loss and the Broncos will take over on downs.
3:15 1st Quarter: Western Michigan is on the board with an efficient, 5-play 60-yard drive to get on the board.
Western Michigan 7, Illinois 0
0:10 1st Quarter: The wheels are coming off for the Illini. Western Michigan adds a second touchdown by spanning 81 yards in just three plays. Wes Lunt appeared to be in the middle of his throwing motion and the ball slipped out, with the Broncos recovering. After a video review, the play was upheld. Western Michigan will start the second quarter with 2nd and goal from the Illinois 3-yard line.
End of 1st Quarter: Western Michigan 14, Illinois 0
14:56 2nd Quarter: The avalanche continues. First play on the quarter, the Broncos run a read option with the quarterback keeping. Hylton missed a tackle at the goal line and this game could get ugly in a hurry.
Western Michigan 21, Illinois 0
12:25 2nd Quarter: Illinois will punt after picking up one first down, albeit not well. David Reisner shanks a kick for just a 15-yard punt. Western Michigan takes over at its own 35-yard line. Ke'Shawn Vaughn has been limited to just four carries for seven yards, and Illinois has negative rushing yards for the game.
8:07 2nd Quarter: Rare positive play for the Illini. After Western Michigan drives down the field with a heavy dose of runs up the middle, their field goal attempt is blocked to keep the score at 21-0. Illinois needs to capitalize on this momentum.
6:39 2nd Quarter: Easily the play of the season. Pitch to Vaughn, reverse to Turner, who laterals back to Lunt who throws a bomb to Ainslie Johnson for a huge touchdown!
Western Michigan 21, Illinois 7
4:21 2nd Quarter: Western Michigan has 115 yards rushing on just 17 carries. Huge holes up the middle right now.
1:14 2nd Quarter: The Broncos move the ball efficiently and use up much of the remaining clock by running the ball, ending in a field goal. If Western Michigan continues to pound the ball on the ground, this Illinois defense will wear down even more.
Western Michigan 24, Illinois 7
HALFTIME: Western Michigan 24, Illinois 7
Halftime Analysis: There's really only one play that is gashing the Illini defense. It's some variation of a read option between the quarterback and the running back, with the tight end pulling to weak side in what's called an "Inside Zone Split." If the Illini clog the middle, the quarterback will keep the ball. If there's a hole in the middle of the line -- which there were plenty in the first half -- the running back takes the ball for huge yardage. That's why Western Michigan has 143 yards rushing in the opening half, and it'll be the key for Illinois coming back in the second half.
10:36 3rd Quarter: Strong drive to open the half for Illinois, capped off with a 21-yard field goal. On third and goal, Lunt had both Reggie Corbin and Malik Turner wide open in the endzone, but Corbin couldn't haul in a high throw that looked like it was intended for Turner. Illinois did a good job of mixing the run and the pass effectively and could've had a long touchdown to Turner, but Lunt underthrew it and Turner couldn't haul it in. Now it's up to the defense to get stops.
Western Michigan 24, Illinois 10
7:52 3rd Quarter: Defense steps up with a stop. A holding penalty negates a long run, and the Illini bring the heat on third down to get the sack. After a negative return from Darius Mosely, Illinois takes over at its own 22-yard line.
Illinois defense forces fifth sack of the day, this time by Chris James and Gimel President, and brings up a WMU punt— Matt Daniels (@mdaniels_NG) September 17, 2016
4:32 3rd Quarter: Western Michigan is just imposing its will at the middle of the line of scrimmage. A 40-yard run by Bogan gave the Broncos 1st and goal, but Illinois holds at the goal line to force a field goal.
Western Michigan 27, Illinois 10
End of 3rd Quarter: Western Michigan 27, Illinois 10
11:51 4th Quarter: Illinois is forced to punt after Lunt misses on a pair of deep balls to Hardee and Turner. Looking like we're in for some garbage time to close this one out.
Western Michigan is up 34-10 here in the 4Q, and Illinois' only TD came on a trick play.— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) September 17, 2016
But at least the weather is nice.
FINAL: Western Michigan 34, Illinois 10