Illinois rallies past Rutgers for first victory
James McCourt kicked a 47-yard field goal with three seconds remaining as visiting Illinois edged Rutgers 23-20 Saturday afternoon at Piscataway, N.J.
McCourt returned after missing the previous two games due to contact tracing and avenged missed field goals of 54 and 46 yards earlier in the fourth quarter. Given another chance, he lined up for the game-winner on third-and-2 and his kick sailed just inside the left upright to give Illinois its first lead this season.
After McCourt’s kick, the Illini (1-3, 1-3 Big Ten) secured the victory on the ensuing kickoff when four defenders wrapped up Rutgers’ running back Isaih Pacheco as the Scarlet Knights attempted a lateral.
Isaiah Williams became the fourth quarterback to start for Illinois and did most of his damage on the ground in his first career start. He completed 7-of-18 passes for 104 yards but dominated on the ground with 192 yards on 31 attempts to set a school record for rushing yards by a quarterback.
Chase Brown added a career-high 130 yards as Illinois gained 337 yards on the ground.
McCourt’s game-winner was set up by the third Illinois interception of the second half. On first down, with 1:07 remaining in the game, left cornerback Nate Hobbs intercepted Rutgers’ quarterback Noah Vedral and returned it to the Illinois 46-yard line.
Illinois moved into field goal territory at the Rutgers 37 when Williams connected with Casey Washington for a 16-yard pass with seven seconds remaining.
Vedral completed 21-of-34 passes for 248 yards and two touchdown passes to Bo Melton before throwing his three interceptions. Melton had five receptions for 150 yards as Rutgers (1-3, 1-3) dropped its third straight game.
Pacheco gained 134 yards on 20 carries for Rutgers.
Melton had a 29-yard TD less reception than two minutes into the game on a fourth-down pass and Rutgers, eventually took a 13-7 lead at halftime. Melton’s 66-yard TD reception with 7:43 left in the third quarter gave the Scarlet Knights a 20-10 lead.
Illinois got within 20-17 on a 1-yard run by Mike Epstein with 4:54 left in the third and tied the game on McCourt’s 23-yard field goal with 13:02 remaining.
–Field Level Media