Illinois is not expected to win many games in 2017. With one win under its belt, however, anything may be possible for Lovie Smith, Mike Dudek and Co.
The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (1-0) visit the Illini (1-0) this Saturday for a Week 2 showdown in Champaign. If that situation sounds familiar, you may have been one of the 38,561 fans in attendance at Memorial Stadium on September 6, 2014.
In the team’s only previous matchup, Illinois road 21 fourth-quarter points to a high-scoring 42-34 victory.
After a quick eight-play drive to open the game, Illinois forced WKU into a turnover on downs. Four plays and 53 seconds later, Josh Ferguson pounded into the end zone for a one-yard run to put the Illini up 7-0.
Before the break, freshman Mike Dudek returned a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown.
Yada, yada, yada, the Hilltoppers took a 17-14 lead into the showers at halftime.
Quarterback Wes Lunt — in case you were looking for a blast from the past — had a career game, completing 35-of-50 passes for 456 yards.
Also, because this is important, Western Kentucky defensive back Wonderful Terry had a career-high nine tackles and returned a fumble 95 yards for a touchdown in the game. Yes, his name is really Wonderful Terry.
Will the Illini be able to score 40-plus points and pull off a victory over the Hilltoppers again? Nobody knows for sure, but the precedent sure is there, and it comes with some familiar names.