CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- Illinois rallied from a 20-point deficit
and Pierre Thomas' 2-yard touchdown run in overtime gave Illinois a
33-30 win over Rutgers on Saturday in Ron Zook's first game as
Trailing 27-10 when the fourth quarter began, the Illini (1-0)
tied the game 27-all when Tim Brasic hit running back E.B. Halsey
with a swing pass and he ran in from 13 yards out with 1:13 to go.
Illinois' Jason Reda missed a 52-yard field goal attempt with 3
seconds left in regulation.
Rutgers (0-1) scored first in the overtime on Jeremy Ito's
40-yard field goal, but the Illini had the last chance. They
overcame a penalty and got a 20-yard run from E.B. Halsey to put
the ball on the 2 for Thomas' winning dive.
The Illinois rally began on the first drive of the final quarter
when they moved from their own 29 to the Rutgers 16 before Reda
kicked a 32-yard field goal.
The defense then forced the Scarlet Knights to punt and Brasic
hit Kendrick Jones for 28 yards on the first play of the ensuing
The drive almost ended two plays later when a flanker pass by
DeJuan Warren was intercepted in the end zone. But a pass
interference penalty on Rutgers' Corey Barnes gave the Illini the
ball back and Brasic hit Jones on a 6-yard TD pass to bring
Illinois within a touchdown with 8:40 to go.
Rutgers again had a chance to ice the game, driving the ball
from its 20 to the Illinois 26. But Ito's 43-yard field goal
attempt was blocked by defensive lineman Chris Norwell, setting up
a 65-yard drive that ended in Halsey's tying touchdown.
Rutgers quarterback Ryan Hart completed 27 of 44 for 342 yards
and two touchdowns, tying a Big East Conference record with the
ninth 300-yard game of his career.
The Knights took a 27-7 lead with 10:49 to go in the third
quarter after Brian Leonard hurdled Illinois cornerback Charles
Bailey and ran 83 yards for a touchdown. Leonard, who also caught a
TD pass from Hart, finished with 128 yards rushing on 12 carries.
Rutgers had 507 yards in offense.
Brasic came into the game having thrown only one pass in his two
previous seasons and the inexperience showed. He was sacked on his
first attempt and threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball away
once in the first half.
But he looked comfortable running the football. He carried three
times during Illinois' first-half touchdown drive for 31 yards and
wound up leading the team in rushing with 77 yards on 18 carries.
He was 24-of-34 for 233 yards through the air.