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Throwback Thursday: Illini lose to Fresno State, 53-52

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It was the saddest ending of all time.

Thanks for opening up this article. I’ve said before that there are a lot of great Illini sports moments from the past 10-20 years, and I stick by that. There are also some moments that are totally head-scratching to the point I can imagine they only happen to Illinois.

Losing to Fresno State 53-52 on Dec. 5, 2009, was one of those games.

You probably remember a lot of the guys from that roster, namely Martez Wilson, Juice Williams and Mikel Leshoure, just to name a few. But it was Fresno State that made a ridiculous last-second play to take the victory and help record the highest-scoring game at Memorial Stadium.

Although Juice and the Illini led 52-45 with just under seven minutes remaining in the game, the defense was unable to hold its own. After each team had a pair of 3-and-outs, the Bulldogs got the ball back and made their way down the field.

Of course, on 4th and 10 from the 19, Fresno State scored on a pass over the middle of the defense. And, of course, Fresno State decided to go for two. At this point you probably already know what the outcome is, but why don’t you just watch the video and see for yourself:

I sat on the couch with my mouth wide open for probably a minute. I couldn’t believe that Illinois nearly sacked the quarterback, just for a desperation toss to get deflected into the hands of a 350-pound lineman, who actually made it over the goal line.

Game over.

At least it was entertaining to watch. The teams combined for 964 yards of total offense. (Illinois had the edge with 548 to Fresno’s 416.) Juice threw for three touchdowns, Mikel Leshoure had 184 yards on the ground, and somehow these teams just continued to score until the end.

It certainly wasn’t the best outcome, but hopefully you’re still reading this because you watched the game and forgot exactly how that ball made it into the end zone as the clock expired. And now you know.