Illinois Looks For Different Ending Against Washington

Dan Kopp / SportsPageMagazine.com

Dan Kopp / SportsPageMagazine.com

It will be a similar situation for Illinois when it kicks off against Washington on Saturday.

Just like last season, the Fighting Illini will face the Huskies after winning the first two games of the season. And just like last season, the team will have to prove how good it can be this season against its first challenge of the season.

But unlike last year, there will be no home-field advantage. At last year’s game in Chicago’s Soldier Field, the Illini competed throughout the game until it fell at the end, losing 34-24. This year’s tilt will also be in Seattle at renovated Husky Stadium.

The difference this year is that the Illini are more mature and come in with a different mentality. After being named the co-Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, quarterback Wes Lunt will need continue the offensive success he’s had the first two games, especially in the fourth quarter.

Washington allowed 682 passing yards in its first two games of the season. It has also failed to create an interception while recovering two fumbles. Lunt has thrown for 741 yards in the first two games of the season. One hundred fifty-four of those yards came in the fourth quarter against Western Kentucky.

Lunt will look to continue to share the wealth among his wide receivers. All newcomers, the corps highlighted by Geronimo Allison, Malik turner and Big Ten Freshman of the Week Mike Dudek is a group that Illini fans hope will be a dynamic force for many years to come.

Under former Boise State head coach Chris Petersen, the Huskies are still trying to find their identity. It is hard to determine how good a team is after two games, but Washington has not left any hints. It narrowly defeated Hawaii 17-16 in the first game of the season and beat Eastern Washington in a 59-52 shootout win.

One thing is certain, though; the Illini defense will have to protect the run throughout the game. The Huskies love to run the ball and are good at it. They rushed 530 yards in the first two games of the season and it has come from both the running back and quarterback positions.

Washington running back Lavon Coleman will create issues for the defense. He has rushed for 196 yards and one touchdown.

The Huskies’ quarterback Cyler Miles will also be a threat. Miles played his first game against Eastern Washington due to a one-game suspension at the beginning of the season. In his debut, Miles threw for 180 yards and ran for 58, scoring one touchdown in the air and three on the ground.

“It’s another dimension,” Illinois head coach Tim Beckman told the media. “You have to have awareness of where he is or he can break it at any time.”

Opponents have rushed for 308 yards against the Illini so far this season. If Illinois holds the Husky rush down enough for Lunt and the offense to take control, there will be a different ending to the story this time around.