Well, that escalated quickly. If you were in Memorial Stadium this past Saturday and closed your eyes it might have sounded something like a Tim Beckman game. Booing at the refs, booing at the team, a small student section trying to make up for the overall lack of energy in the crowd. The honeymoon is certainly over for Lovie Smith in Champaign, and Saturday's embarrassing blowout loss to Western Michigan had to be a big wakeup call for the Illlini. Give the Broncos credit too; PJ Fleck's team came to play. And that's reflected in our players of the game below.
Third Star: Malik Turner
Despite the loss, Turner nearly had a career day. He hauled in nine receptions for 107 yards including a long 35-yard catch that boosted one of Illinois' (few) scoring drives. He averaged nearly 13 yards per reception and was pretty much the only Illini receiver that was consistently getting open and allowing Lunt to hit him in stride for some big plays.
Malik Turner goes over 100 yards (currently 9 rec., 107 yards.).— Illini Stats & Notes (@IlliniStats) September 17, 2016
His career highs are 11 rec. for 126 yards at Minnesota last year.
With Dudek out again this year and Hardee still getting readjusted to the college game, it's pretty clear that Malik Turner is Wes Lunt's number one target and should be going forward after his performance on Saturday.
Second Star: Zach Terrell
The Broncos QB was excellent against Illinois, outclassing his opposition in every facet of the game. Even though he only threw 13 passes he made several huge plays with his arm and his feet that Lunt simply couldn't match, including a 44-yard bomb to wideout Corey Davis to help set up a scoring drive.
He didn't have any passing touchdowns and only threw for 150 yards but he managed to score a rushing touchdown and finished the game with over 200 all-purpose yards. Terrell was excellent when flushed out of the pocket and if the Illini defensive line hadn't gotten to him for a few sacks, his rushing totals would look even better.
First Star: Jamauri Bogan
Bogan ran all over and through the Illini secondary, carving them up for 189 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He averaged nearly eight yards per carry on 24 rushes and had twice as many yards on one run as the Illini had in the whole game.
Bogan seemed unstoppable at times and was the catalyst to a Western Michigan offense that didn't let up throughout the entire game. He continually exposed large gaps in the Illinois defense, and that's a big issue that will have to be corrected prior to conference play beginning in a few weeks. Bogan at times was spelled by backup running back Jarvion Franklin, who finished with nearly 100 yards himself. The Broncos' ground game was very impressive against Lovie's defense, and PJ Fleck was pretty pumped about that after the game.
The Illini mercifully get a week off to regroup and reevaluate before heading to Lincoln, Nebraska to take on the Cornhuskers in two weeks. The start of Big Ten play will mark a tough remainder of the season for Lovie Smith and company, but there is still time for Illinois to rebound.