By IlliniGuys Staff
September 2, 2023
(Cover photo courtesy Steve Snider/IlliniGuys)
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Caleb Griffin drilled a 29-yard field goal with five seconds left as Illinois survived a scare from Toledo in their 2023 season opener, 30-28.
It was anything but easy for the Illini (1-0), as they built an eight-point lead early in the 4th quarter, only to see the Rockets rally to take the lead as dual-threat quarterback Dequan Finn scored a one-yard touchdown late in the game in Toledo's bid for the upset.
But sophomore transfer Luke Altmyer was cool under pressure in his debut as Illinois' starting quarterback, connecting with Casey Washington on a 33-yard play on 4th down to keep the Illini's final drive alive and setting up Griffin's game-winning heroics.
Altmyer was perfect in his opening drive, completing all five passes for 68 yards as Josh McCray dove in from one yard out for a 7-0 lead.
But the Illini offense went stagnant for the rest of the half and that allowed Toledo (0-1) to take control. After a pair of field goals, Finn found Jerjaun Newton on a 15-yard strike with :04 left to allow the defending Mid-American Conference champions to take a 12-7 lead into halftime.
Finn missed on seven consecutive passes in one stretch in the first half, but found his stride on the opening drive in the 3rd quarter as he hit four of five passes including a nine-yard touchdown to Peny Boone and the Rockets had a 19-7 lead before many of the 48,898 returned to their seats after intermission.
The defense that had bent so far for more than two quarters then bounced back. Miles Scott intercepted a Finn pass and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown that woke up the home crowd and pulled the Illini to 19-14.
Altmyer then responded with back-to-back touchdown passes to Pat Bryant as Illinois built a 27-19 lead early in the 4th quarter.
Altmyer completed 18 of 26 passes for 211 yards and rushed for a team-high 69 yards.
Illinois now looks to its first road game of the season next Friday at Kansas.
Stay with IlliniGuys.com for complete post-game coverage.
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