Two weeks into the 2015 season, and the Illini have two dominant victories.
After crushing Kent State, 52-3, in the season-opener, Illinois shut out Western Illinois in another rout in Champaign, 44-0.
Now, that might have happened whether Tim Beckman was fired a week before the season or not, what with these first two games coming against Kent State and Western Illinois. But you can’t help but be impressed by a team that’s had more than its share of troubles over the past few seasons and has outscored opponents 96-3 over eight quarters of football.
A defense that struggled against almost every opponent in recent seasons has held its opponents to a total of three points in those eight quarters, with the visiting end zones at Memorial Stadium remaining untouched. That defense starred again Saturday, holding Western Illinois to 141 total yards and just 43 through the air. Illini defender Taylor Barton picked off two Leathernecks passes, and Jaylen Dunlap blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown by Marchie Murdock.
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And the Illini offense had little trouble scoring all over the Leathernecks. Wes Lunt completed 33 of his 46 passing attempts for 316 yards and a touchdown, also throwing an interception. It wasn't a huge day running the ball, but Josh Ferguson and Henry Enyenihi each scored a rushing touchdown. It was a big day for wideout Geronimo Allison, who caught eight passes for 124 yards.
The Illini amassed 500 total yards of offense on the day.
After the firing of Beckman, the Illini have two wins in two tries under interim head coach Bill Cubit. Though the tough games have yet to occur — it’ll happen soon enough, though, with a Week 3 trip to North Carolina — there’s a good feeling in Champaign and some positive momentum just two weeks after the program appeared to be a disaster.