It’s been a long journey back to the field for Mike Dudek. The junior has missed two straight years with ACL injuries after a breakout freshman campaign for Illinois. He played like he was never gone. He showcased his ability to make tough catches and his pure, nasty, badass, American speed.
Dudek did not fill up the stat sheet against Ball State. He had 2 catches for 47 yards with a TD, and also returned three punts for 55 yards, but Dudek made two of the most important plays of the game for the Illini.
He put Illinois on the board with a fantastic catch with a defender draped all over him in the first quarter. No one else on the team can make this catch.
YES!— Illinois on BTN (@IllinoisOnBTN) September 2, 2017
Welcome back, @MDFlash_7.
All of @IlliniFootball missed you. pic.twitter.com/Amm2xMTAq7
In the fourth quarter, Dudek returned a punt for 52 yards that gave Illinois great field posistion.
.@IlliniFootball has grabbed a late lead over Ball State, partly thanks to a huge boost from this 52-yard #BTNStandout return by @MDFlash_7: pic.twitter.com/AEYiYtYmCJ— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) September 2, 2017
I thought Dudek was taking it to the house, and he may have if he got some better blocking on the weakside. Look how he backed up before catching the punt allowing him to catch the ball on the run. That’s a real heads-up move from Dudek.
Illinois would score on the subsequent drive to take the lead over Ball State, and eventually win the game.
Mike Dudek only touched the ball 5 times today, but made a huge impact. Illinois would not have won this game without the return DUDE-K. Every Illini fan should be thrilled and excited just to have him return to the field after a long two years.
We now should be excited for what’s to come out from Mike Dudek this season. He is The Champaign Room’s player of the game in week one.