By IlliniGuys Staff
September 10, 2022
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - National rushing leader Chase Brown ran for 146 yards, but it was the Illini defense that held tight despite four first half turnovers from its offense as Illinois routed Virginia, 24-3.
Saturday's game marked a complete reversal from the teams' meeting a year ago in Charlottesville, when the Cavaliers lit up Illinois, 42-14.
That marked a turning point for Illini defensive coordinator Ryan Walters, who has quickly shaped his unit into one of the stingiest in the country. Illinois has allowed more than 30 points only once since the debacle at Virginia and it was simply dominant on Saturday.
Illinois opened the game with a pair of turnovers in the first three minutes of the game. Tommy DeVito threw an interception on second play of the game and, after a Virginia punt, Brown fumbled the ball away after a 10-yard gain. The Cavaliers cashed in with a field goal.
That would be the end of their scoring. Illinois got on the board with freshman Matthew Bailey recovered a fumbled Virginia punt in the end zone to make it a 7-3 Illini lead.
Then DeVito got hot, completing ten straight passes including touchdown throws to tight ends Michael Marchese and Tip Reiman. But the Illinois offense committed two more turnovers, meaning Virginia had more turnovers forced (4) than points scored (3) at halftime.
Brown left the game late in the third quarter after he began cramping, coming up one yard short of becoming the first Big Ten running back since 2002 to open a season with three consecutive 150-yard games.
Bailey later added his first career interception to his day and fellow freshman Gabe Jacas recorded the first two sacks of his career, the latter knocking Cavaliers veteran quarterback Brennan Armstrong out of the game. The southpaw torched Illinois for 405 yards and five touchdowns in 2021; on Saturday he was under constant pressure all afternoon and saw his streak of 18 straight games with a touchdown pass snapped. Armstrong finished completing 13 of 34 passes for 180 yards with two interceptions. The Illini defense recording nine tackles-for-loss and five sacks on the afternoon.
Illinois (2-1) takes next weekend off before hosting Chattanooga on Thursday, September 22nd. Virginia (1-1) returns home to host Old Dominion next Saturday.
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