It's been a tough week or so for the Illinois football program.
Tim Beckman was fired as head coach a week away from the season-opener, which was then postponed after a multi-hour delay due to severe weather Friday night in Champaign.
But once the Illini, behind interim head coach Bill Cubit, were able to finally take the field Saturday afternoon, they steamrolled Kent State by a score of 52-3.
Everything was going right for Illinois from the get-go, with the Illini scoring four touchdowns in the first quarter. Those four drives took a combined three minutes and 23 seconds as the Illini were rewarded with incredible field position over and over again. V'Angelo Bentley started things with a big punt return. Eaton Spence intercepted a pass on the next defensive possession. The Illini recovered a muffed punt the next time around. And Mason Monheim had an interception after that.
The Illini offense thanked its defense for the incredible field position with three Wes Lunt touchdown passes — to Tyler White, Marchie Murdock and Josh Ferguson — and a touchdown run from Ferguson. The game was effectively over at that point, though the Illini weren't done scoring. Another Lunt touchdown pass to Geronimo Allison and a field goal came in the second quarter. True freshman running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn ran in a score in the third quarter. And backup quarterback Chayce Crouch hooked up with Sam Mays for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Only a fourth-quarter field goal kept Kent State from getting shut out.
Lunt finished with just 162 passing yards to go along with his four touchdown passes. Credit the short fields the Illini defense kept providing for that. That's also the reason for the somewhat surprising 342-yard total for the Illini, who had just 134 yards on the ground. The Illinois defense played terrifically, limiting Kent State to 245 yards total, just 59 rushing.
Perhaps more than statistically, though, it was a terrific win for the Illini emotionally. The team lost its head coach to firing just a week ago, and the weather postponement meant very few fans in the stands Saturday afternoon. But the Illini were more than ready to play under Cubit, giving the interim head coach his first win of the season.
And here's how they celebrated:
— Illini Football (@IlliniFootball) September 5, 2015