It turned out to be the perfect encapsulation of Illinois football in 2018. Promise shown and promise taken away in a split second.
In a season marred by inconsistent wide receiver play, it would have been interesting to see how much of a difference Edwin Carter could have made.
Western Illinois is a good FCS program, but Illinois should never struggle against any directional school in the state. Yet, here we were, freshman quarterback struggling to move the ball on a defense that had stifled the Illini for a half.
Rod Smith needed any player to step up and make a play.
Enter Carter, freshman from Florida.
Both touchdowns came on similar routes, with Carter running an inside seam angle route, MJ Rivers waiting for the route to develop and hitting Carter in the numbers. And he caught it, which was rare for receivers on Illinois' roster, as illustrated by that season-ending loss to Northwestern.
That second catch seemed to wake up the Illini in the second half and put the game out of reach. It also ended Carter's season. In the second game. Such a shame.
We really could have used a receiver who could catch the ball in traffic. Was there a better catch all year?
Hopefully, Carter comes back stronger than ever and makes as big an impact as his game against WIU. Illini fans can only hope.
Him and a Marquez Beason on the outside with a junior Ricky Smalling? Oh, boy, that’s some weapons to work with for future Illinois quarterbacks Isaiah Williams and Khalil Tate, as well as Rivers. We kid.
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