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For a day, Mike Dudek looked like a freshman again.

In his first game in two years, Dudek reminded Illini fans just how good he is.

Ball State v Illinois Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Mikey Dudek’s statline for Saturday’s game might not look too impressive in the grand scheme of things.

Two catches, 47 yards, and three punt returns for 55 yards on the day in a 24-21 win over Ball State on Saturday in Champaign.

Dudek was able to haul in a touchdown pass in the first quarter and connected with quarterback Chayce Crouch on a shallow cross later in the game for 31 yards against man coverage.

Also, in the fourth quarter with the Illini trailing, Dudek fielded a punt and returned it 52 yards to put Illinois in scoring range for the go-ahead touchdown with mere minutes left remaining in the game.

While Dudek did not have the best statistics, the fact that he made it through the first game of the season healthy and was able to contribute both on offense and on special teams was a joy to watch for Illini fans. He maintained the burst that Illinois fans remember in order to beat man coverage for huge gains, and his creativity was on display in special teams with a huge return late in the contest Saturday.

Dudek will be an integral part of Illinois’ success on offense this season.