Week 2 of the NFL season has come and gone and the team with the most active Illinois Fighting Illini players is now 2-0. The Houston Texans avenged their 30-0 playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the former team of guard Jeff Allen. Allen was quite satisfied with the win over the team that had elected not to re-sign him. Fullback Jay Prosch did not record any stats in the 19-12 win; though the Texans averaged a mediocre 2.9 yards per carry, the offense was able to do just enough to earn a victory. The defense, featuring our own Whitney Mercilus (last week’s AFC Defensive Player of the Week), held the Chiefs to under 300 yards and recovered three fumbles. Mercilus came up with one of the loose balls at the end of the first half and collected three tackles as well. The Fighting Illini Reunion Tour heads to Foxboro to take on the 2-0 New England Patriots next week.
Speaking of the Patriots, they also advanced to 2-0 despite being reduced to a third-string quarterback. Rookie offensive lineman Ted Karras split snaps at right guard this week after playing most of Week 1. Though the Pats’ offensive line couldn’t stop Ndamukong Suh from racking up 12 tackles, he only got one of them behind the line of scrimmage as the Patriots won 31-24.
Two former Illini squared off in San Diego, as Chargers defensive tackle Corey Liuget recovered a Blake Bortles fumble in a 38-14 rout of Arrelious Benn’s Jacksonville Jaguars. Benn, the 2007 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, recorded his first NFL catch since 2012 on a fourth-quarter drive with Jacksonville trailing by 31. Major injuries have derailed the last three years of his career, but there’s hope yet for the talented athlete.
The Oakland Raiders’ defense was shredded by the Atlanta Falcons in a 35-28 shootout. Rookie defensive end Jihad Ward managed two tackles and a pass breakup, but the Raiders failed to generate a pass rush against Matt Ryan. He put up 389 yards while only being sacked once.
Tavon Wilson got the start at strong safety for the Detroit Lions against the Tennessee Titans, making seven solo tackles including one behind the line. Through three quarters, the Lions had held the Titans to 3 points, but Marcus Mariota burned them in the fourth quarter for two touchdowns. For his part, Wilson did his job playing up towards the line of scrimmage while the back end of the defense gave up the two touchdown passes.
Josh Ferguson was used more in the passing game for the Indianapolis Colts, with 5 catches for 29 yards bringing the rookie running back’s total to 7 for 55 yards on the year. He also ran three times for 5 yards, and while he’s not enjoyed much success between the tackles, he is becoming an asset on the perimeter in the short passing game. Ultimately, the Broncos defense overwhelmed the Colts as a pick-six doomed them to a 34-20 loss.
Akeem Spence got a tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Arizona Cardinals near the end of the 40-7 Cardinals blowout as the depth charts were being flexed. Bengals safety Clayton Fejedelem recorded no stats in their loss to the Steelers.
Up north in the CFL, two Fighting Illini continue to get reps for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, as Xavier Fulton remains the starting left tackle in his fifth year with the team. He was with them for their 2013 Grey Cup win. Injuries at receiver pressed Ryan Lankford into action for the first time in over a month on Sunday and he caught 2 balls for 14 yards. In limited action, he has 17 catches for 154 yards but has yet to find the end zone.