2:00 PM ET, November 6, 2004
Memorial Stadium, CHAMPAIGN, IL
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- A touchdown pass with just seconds left to play gave the Illini a 26-22 come-from-behind victory over Indiana on Saturday, Illinois' first Big Ten win since 2002.
A fake punt went for a first down to spark a 14-point first-quarter rally, and a late interception by Kelvin Hayden set up the winning touchdown as the Illini battled from a 19-0 deficit to beat Indiana.
Illinois (3-7, 1-6) snapped a seven-game slide and won its first conference game since beating Northwestern 31-24 in the last game of the 2002 season.
"It's been a long time," said coach Ron Turner. "I'm happy for these players. We've been telling them all year that if they continue to fight, continue to believe and continue to stick together, something good is going to happen."
Indiana (3-6, 1-5) lost its 12th straight Big Ten road game and any hope of appearing in a bowl game.
Leading 22-20 with 4:37 left in the fourth quarter, Indiana quarterback Blake Powers, playing for an injured Matt LoVecchio, dropped back on third-and-8 and saw Jahkeen Gilmore open down the right sideline.
"I thought they'd bite on the screen and I would throw it deep," he said. "It was one-on-one but I didn't keep the ball on the sidelines like I should have."
Hayden played into the coverage late and grabbed the ball from Gilmore's hands at the Illinois 37. He ran it back 33 yards to Indiana's 30.
The Illini handed the ball to Pierre Thomas seven consecutive times and moved the ball to the 2 before Beutjer found Kendrick Jones wide open in the end zone with just 30 seconds remaining.
Thomas also had a 44-yard touchdown run earlier in the fourth quarter, and finished with 185 yards on 21 carries.
The Illini, who came into the game last in the conference in turnover margin at minus-8, got a second interception on Indiana's final possession to seal the win.
"If you look at the Iowa game, Michigan and Purdue games, we turned it over at crucial times and didn't get turnovers," Turner said. "Today, we got a turnover at a crucial time and that's what this game is all about."
Indiana scored on the first play of the game, an 80-yard TD pass from LoVecchio to Gilmore. The Hoosiers scored twice more -- on a 1-yard run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis and a 31-yard run by Courtney Roby -- before the game was eight minutes old, but they missed an extra point and a 2-point conversion try.
Illinois couldn't get anything going early. The Illini gained only 5 yards in their first three possessions before Steve Weatherford faked a punt and ran 12 yards for a first down. Bower connected with Jones on a 56-yard pass on the next play for the Illini's first touchdown.
"I thought the momentum change came when they faked the punt," said Indiana coach Gerry DiNardo. "We were in position but we just didn't make the tackles."
Illinois also scored on the next series when Bower hit tight end Melvin Bryant from 16 yards out. Bower finished 9-of-20 for 125 yards before Beutjer took over with 2:45 remaining in the third quarter.
Beutjer was 3-of-6 for 27 yards. Jones finished with five catches for 91 yards and the two scores.
LoVecchio was 15-of-17 for 209 yards before sustaining a head injury on a 10-yard run that gave the Hoosiers the ball at the Illinois 16 with 4:04 left in the third quarter.
"I don't know if it's officially a concussion," DiNardo said. "I don't think anyone knows. It's tough to diagnose."
The win may quiet, at least temporarily, talk of Turner's shaky job status.
"It's a testament to how much these guys care about each other," said center Duke Preston. "No one's given up on each other and no one's given up on our staff. If we had, there's no way we come out with that win today."
The Illini are off next Saturday before finishing the season at Northwestern on Nov. 22. Indiana plays its final home game of the season next week against Penn State.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||6-14||4-13|
|4th Down Conversions||0-0||1-1|
|TD||14:48||JAHKEEN GILMORE 80 YD PASS FROM MATT LOVECCHIO (MISSED KICK)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||10:04||BENJARVUS GREEN-ELLIS 1 YD RUN (BRYAN ROBERTSON KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 45 yards.
|TD||7:24||COURTNEY ROBY 31 YD RUN (FAILED 2PT PASS)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 46 yards.
|TD||5:20||KENDRICK JONES 56 YD PASS FROM BRAD BOWER (JASON REDA KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 67 yards.
|TD||0:48||MELVIN BRYANT 16 YD PASS FROM BRAD BOWER (JASON REDA KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 65 yards.
|FG||2:45||BRYAN ROBERTSON 37 YD FG|
Drive info: 17 plays, 69 yards.
|TD||5:21||PIERRE THOMAS 44 YD RUN (FAILED 2PT PASS)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||0:30||KENDRICK JONES 2 YD PASS FROM JON BEUTJER (FAILED 2PT PASS)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 30 yards.