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Illini move to 2-0 with win over Western Kentucky

Illini move to 2-0 with win over Western Kentucky”

An inept offense never gave them a chance.

But, an all-around strong defensive effort from IL proved to the difference on Saturday night as the Illini improved to 2-0 with a 20-7 victory over the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Memorial Stadium.

The loss drops WKU to 1-1. The Toppers (1-1) only gave up one offensive touchdown and allowed IL just 4.0 yards per play.

The Illini are scheduled to travel to South Florida on Friday night.

"Our defense played their hearts out", quarterback Mike White said. "It may be even more this week". "We just have to get back to our technique".

Quarterback Mike White threw for 238 yards on 28 of 43 passing and had a costly pick-6 at the end of the first half.

IL gave up 375 yards of total offense to Ball State, including 171 yards on the ground, but the team did force two turnovers. "In an environment like this it's hard to come back from that".

The seven total points scored is the lowest single-game margin for WKU since being shut out 35-0 at Alabama in 2012, and is the lowest margin since redshirt senior quarterback Mike White took over the reigns quarterback.

With the offense unable to find success, the WKU defense finally came up with a big play.

The Illini and Hilltoppers are both coming off of season-opening victories. The Toppers couldn't get the job done Saturday, though.

"That's what we preach", Nickerson said. "But that's a defense thats going to make you earn everything". Nacarius Fant caught 10 passes for 110 yards.

The WKU running game contributed six yards. The WKU defense held their own and IL settled for a Chase McLaughlin 37-yard field goal to put the first points on the board.

Adding insult to injury for the Tops, one of the Illini's best defensive players Saturday night was cornerback Nate Hobbs, who tallied a team-high six tackles. The Louisville native committed to WKU last fall before flipping his pledge to IL.

Taking the second half kickoff, IL marched down the field in 15 plays while covering 85 yards and killing 6:41 off the clock.

Linebacker Julian Jones intercepted White's pass in the second quarter to put the Illini up 13-0.Defensive end Isaiah Gay and linebacker Del'Shawn Phillips hurried White, forcing him to throw it up into the IL coverage with no receiver close to Jones.

The Hilltoppers gave the IL offense multiple opportunities to put points on the board, but it was inconsistent throughout the night.

IL (2-0) got 111 yards on the ground from Mike Epstein and a TD run from quarterback Chayce Crouch.

That score held until an Antwon Kincade interception set WKU up in Illini territory.

White's 2-yard run with 11:38 remaining in the game put Western Kentucky (1-1) on the board, but it couldn't apply any more pressure to the Illini.

Epstein, getting his first start, carried the ball 21 times. "It hurts. I'm obviously not in a good mood right now but we'll watch the film and move on to La Tech next week".

The Toppers failed in trying to accomplish that Saturday with their loss at IL.

Things got a little more insane in the final minute of the second quarter.

Another of Sanford's five goals is to win the Conference USA title each season.

If the Hilltoppers want to make such a run in 2017, White knows the offense has to improve.

IL kept White under pressure much of the night. "We've got to use this as a learning experience". There's a long season ahead of us. "It's on me and the other captains to remind our team of that and keep pushing".



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