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Illinois uses James McCourt late-game FG to top Rutgers for first 2020 win

R-FR Isaiah Williams set the single-game QB rushing record in his first career start.

NCAA Football: Illinois at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois went on the road to face Rutgers and to try for its first win of the season — and the Illini did just that.

With Brandon Peters still out after testing positive for COVID-19, Isaiah Williams was the starting quarterback. Williams and other key Illinois players, including Doug Kramer and James McCourt, returned this week after being out due to contact tracing protocol.

The Scarlet Knights took an early lead, scoring within the first two minutes of the first quarter. Rutgers went up 10-0 after a field goal, but Williams responded with his first career touchdown on the opening drive of the second quarter.

In his first start, Williams broke the Illinois rush record that was set by AJ Bush in 2018. He had 192 yards and 31 carries on the day.

Illinois started the second half of the game with a 12 play drive that lasted six minutes. Donny Navarro made it to the end zone, but after an illegal formation penalty, the Illini had to settle for a field goal. McCourt’s successful attempt was his first of the season.

With the game tied at 20 in the fourth quarter, McCourt missed back-to-back field goals. Both the 54-yard and 46-yard attempts were wide right.

McCourt redeemed himself by making a 47-yard field goal to put the Illini up 23-20 with seven seconds left in the game. Coming in clutch, that was what Illinois needed to get their first win of the season.


  • Williams in the end zone: Isaiah Williams rushed 3-yards for the first touchdown of his career. The score cut Rutgers’ lead down to three early in the second quarter.
  • Much needed interception: Devon Witherspoon came in clutch with an interception in the fourth quarter. The catch was crucial with the game tied.
  • Picked off again: Late in the fourth quarter, Nate Hobbs intercepted Noah Vedral’s pass. This was the third takeaway of the game for the Illini.


Jake Hansen picks off Noah Vedral’s pass.



Illinois will travel to face the Nebraska Cornhuskers (1-2) on Saturday, Nov. 21 at 11 a.m. on Big Ten Network.