Illini Break Through With A Late-Game Thriller at Maryland

By IlliniGuys Staff

October 14, 2023

(Cover photo courtesy Illinois Athletics)

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Caleb Griffin drilled a 43-yard field goal as time expired as Illinois earned a dramatic 27-24 upset win over Maryland Saturday afternoon.

The win was the first in Big Ten play for Illinois (3-4, 1-3) this season, which has struggled against Power 5 teams.  The Illini are just 2-8 against Power 5 opponents since last November.

It was a game of firsts for the Illini, who entered the game as 14-point underdogs.  Freshman Kaden Feagin scored his first touchdown as a collegian, Isaiah Williams caught his first touchdown pass of the season, and Illinois found a way to beat Maryland for the first time ever.

Illinois got on the scoreboard first with just its second opening quarter touchdown all season when Luke Altmyer connected with Pat Bryant on a 44-yard strike on its first offensive series.

But, as it has done so many times this season, the offense sputtered after that, allowing Maryland to take a 14-7 lead on a pair of Taulia Tagovailoa scoring strikes.  This time, Illinois answered before halftime.  After Kenenna Odeluga recovered a Kaden Prather fumble at the Illini 27-yard line, Altmyer took the team on a quick 73-yard drive culminated by Feagin's one-yard dive to tie the game at 14.

Illinois re-took the lead in the 3rd quarter when Altmyer found Williams on a scramble and the senior took it in for a 15-yard score.  It marked the first time Illinois scored three touchdowns in the first 35 minutes of a game this season. Griffin added a 40-yard field goal later in the quarter to give the Illini just their second 10-point lead of 2023.  They led Florida Atlantic 20-10 in the third quarter in their game last month.

The Terrapins battled back with a touchdown on the final play of the 3rd quarter, then both teams battled to a draw until Jack Howes' 48-yard field goal to tie the game 24-24 with 1:31 left.

That set up the Illini for their best late game drive since their opener against Toledo.  Just like the game-winning drive in that game, Casey Washington made a spectacular, acrobatic catch, this time for 29 yards to take Illinois down to the Maryland 42-yard line and setting up Griffin's eventual game-winner.  Illinois hadn't converted a single first down in the final quarter before getting two on that final drive.

Feagin, getting his first career start in place of the injured Reggie Love III and Josh McCray, took advantage of the opportunity with a career-high 84 yards on the ground before leaving the game late with an upper body injury.

Altmyer finished 16 of 28 for 206 yards and two touchdowns with an interception.  Tagliavoa, who guided Maryland (5-2, 2-2) to 10 points in the final 2:30 to score a 20-17 win in Champaign two years ago, went 27 of 39 for 266 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Illinois returns home to host Wisconsin on Homecoming Weekend next Saturday.  That will be a 2:30pm CT kickoff at Memorial Stadium.

Stay with IlliniGuys.com for complete postgame coverage from College Park.

 

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