Welcome to the TCR GameThread! The Fighting Illini welcome the Rutgers Scarlet Knights to Champaign this afternoon, and 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.
15:00 - Rutgers will get the ball first. Illinois is without some key players as RB Mike Epstein, CB Tony Adams and S Patrick Nelson are all out today.
13:52 - Good start for the Illini defense to force a three and out, all runs, aided by a Rutgers personal foul penalty. Illinois gets the ball at its own 35-yard line.
2017 True Freshman Starters by Game: 3, 7, 10, 8, 8, 9— Illini Stats & Notes (@IlliniStats) October 14, 2017
(program record before this season: 5)
12:24 - Illinois sends the ball right back to Rutgers with a three and out of its own. Ra'Von Bonner earned two carries for the Illini, and the freshman will have a much larger workload for the rest of the year, as it was announced that leading rusher Mike Epstein is out for the season.
12:12 - Break out the shovel! Stanley Green forces a fumble and James Crawford scoops it up for Illinois. The Illini have the ball just outside the red zone.
9:26 - Two penalties push the Illini back to 3rd and 29 before George Jr. scrambles to get back to the 37-yard line. Chase McLaughlin (who I properly jinxed with an article last week) attempted a 54-yard field goal that had plenty of distance, only for it to hit off the upright, no good. Still no score here.
Illinois almost scored against Rutgers pic.twitter.com/PKKskM9bgS— IllinoisLoyalty (@IllinoisLoyalty) October 14, 2017
7:21 - Rutgers gets on the board first, pounding the ball on the ground. Raheem Blackshear scampers 19 yards for a touchdown and dodged walk on Jimmy Marchese in the hole and flattened Jaylen Dunlap at the goal line.
Rutgers 7, Illinois 0
3:18 - The Illini respond with points, a 43-yard field goal from McLaughlin. Dre Brown recorded his first career carry after two straight missed seasons with torn ACLs.
Rutgers 7, Illinois 3
End of 1st quarter: Rutgers 7, Illinois 3
13:07 - A truly surreal sentence to type: Illinois might get blown out today, at home, against Rutgers. The Illini defense can't stop the run and is getting dominated at the line of scrimmage, and Rutgers QB Giovanni Rescigno is 3-3 for 58 yards. Senior Josh Hicks plows into the end zone for the touchdown.
Rutgers already has 106 rushing yards— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) October 14, 2017
Rutgers 14, Illinois 3
9:00 - George Jr. is slinging it like his daddy this drive, and he's 5-7 with 81 yards. The Illini face third and goal from the Rutgers 5-yard line.
8:10 - Touchdown*! Bonner slams it in from a yard out on fourth and goal, although the play is under review. He looked to be short but the freshman reached the ball across the goal line. I think this play will stand as called. UPDATE: Play confirmed.
HE'S A FRESHMAN— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 14, 2017
And this was an incredible one-hand catch by @IlliniFootball's @SuccessfulRicky: pic.twitter.com/rixKfSWTjg
Rutgers 14, Illinois 10
4:59 - There's no sugar coating it: Rutgers is dominating Illinois physically and the Illini can't stop the run. A third rushing touchdown of the day for the Scarlet Knights extends their lead.
Rutgers 21 rushes, 135 yards— Jeremy Werner (@JWernerScout) October 14, 2017
Rutgers 4 passes, 86 yards
Nothing exotic. Just rolling over Hardy Nickerson & Lovie Smith's #illini defense
Rutgers 21, Illinois 10
3:53 - The Illini should call Kenny Loggins because they're officially in the danger zone. George Jr. uncorks a throw much too high and it's intercepted and returned inside the Illinois 40-yard line.
2:34 - Huge stop for the Illini as redshirt freshman Ayo Shogbonyo forces a fumble on fourth and one and James Crawford recovers once again. Illinois needs to respond before halftime.
1:17 - Illinois goes three and out. Rutgers is 89 yards away from the end zone with one timeout left.
Halftime: Rutgers 21, Illinois 10
ILL: George Jr.: 5/10, 81 yds, 1 INT; Bonner 13 car., 47 yds, TD; Smalling 1 rec., 32 yds
RUT: Rescigno: 4/5, 86 yds; Edwards 13 car., 65 yds, TD; Grant 2 rec., 46 yds
11:13 - Illinois had been putting together a nice drive, mixing the run and the pass, but George Jr. sails a ball too high for Dudek in the red zone that tips off his fingers and is picked off. JGJ turns the ball over at an alarming rate, and it might be time to start thinking about Cam Thomas at quarterback.
8:39 - Rutgers can't get out of its own way with a pair of penalties and Illinois forces a punt. Good field position for the Illini to start this drive, if they don't turn it over.
5:46 - Illinois punts, Rutgers punts, and Carmoni Green, back at returner, lets the ball bounce a few times then inexplicably tries to jump on the ball, fumbles and Rutgers recovers. Wow.
4:11 - Touchdown Rutgers. It's an 18-point game but it feels like a 40-point deficit.
Rutgers 28, Illinois 10
0:18 - Illinois punts, James Crawford forces a fumble to get the ball back, and Illinois punts again. Rutgers will take over after a touchback on a Blake Hayes punt. George Jr. having trouble completing even the simplest of passes right now.
End of 3rd Quarter: Rutgers 28, Illinois 10
Zero points off three turnovers. #illini— Jeremy Werner (@JWernerScout) October 14, 2017
12:31 - Rutgers is forced to punt once again, highlighted by a sack from Crawford. He's got a sack, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
12:00 - Three passes, three incompletions, punt. George Jr. is 11/25 for 137 yards and two interceptions.
7:56 - Touchdown Illinois! The Illini travel 85 yards in just five plays, highlighted by a pair of deep passes from George Jr. to Trenard Davis and Ricky Smalling for a touchdown. Smalling has four catches for 104 yards and a score. Game might not be over yet!
Jeff George Jr to Ricky Smalling Touchdown pic.twitter.com/5JeXp8VFCQ— IllinoisLoyalty (@IllinoisLoyalty) October 14, 2017
Rutgers 28, Illinois 17
4:45 - Illinois couldn't stop a Rutgers completion on third and 9 and then the Scarlet Knights rip off a 41-yard run to get deep inside Illini territory. The Illinois defense needs a turnover here or this might be the game.
4:32 - Missed tackles have been the story all game and another whiff leads to the dagger as Rutgers finds the end zone once again.
Rutgers 35, Illinois 17
1:11 - A feel-good touchdown for the Illini, as freshman Louis Dorsey catches his first career touchdown pass.
Rutgers 35, Illinois 24
FINAL: Rutgers 35, Illinois 24