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Williams scores 2 TDs, runs for record 174 yards to lead Illini

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Juice Williams bested himself yet again. And this time, Illinois won, too.

The Illinois quarterback ran for 174 yards and two touchdowns Saturday and threw for another 124 yards to lead No. 24 Illinois (1-1) to a 47-21 win over down-the-road neighbor Eastern Illinois.

Williams' performance, which broke his own school record for rushing yards by a quarterback, followed his career-best five touchdowns and 451 yards passing last weekend in a loss to No. 6 Missouri.

"I love to run the ball, but as a quarterback," Williams said. "We wanted to establish the run game early and anytime I or anyone else can make some big runs, it can spread the defense out and open some holes and create an opportunity to pass the ball over the top."

Williams also showed Saturday that he's still a work in progress.

Playing a Championship Subdivision opponent, the quarterback threw two interceptions, and fumbled the ball a yard short of a touchdown in the third quarter.

"He threw some ducks, but we all know he can throw the football and I can't go critiquing every throw," Zook said.

Travorus Bess rushed for 183 yards on 15 carries for Eastern Illinois (0-2), which is from Charleston, 45 miles south of Champaign. Bess, a senior who isn't listed on the two-deep depth chart for Eastern, gained 12.2 yards a carry.

"He's a guy who has been hurt on and off for four years, Eastern coach Bob Spoo said. "He's got some stuff."

Illinois scored four touchdowns in a decisive, 13-minute span that started late in the first half, going from a 13-7 lead to 40-7 after mistakes and bad luck let Eastern hang around for most of the first half.

The biggest mistakes were Williams' interceptions, but in the end both proved harmless. Eastern's Bodie Reeder followed the first with a pick of his own to linebacker Brit Miller, and Tyler Wilke missed a 52-yard field goal attempt after the other.

The bad luck came midway through the second quarter on an Eastern punt, which bounced off the back of Illinois' Miami Thomas as he lay on the ground with an injured right knee and was recovered at the Illini 15 by the Panthers' Quinten Ponious.

But Eastern gave the ball right back, failing to convert a fourth-and-1 play at the Illinois 6.

"If we take advantage of it we go up 14-13, and who knows what happens after that," Spoo said. "But it didn't happen that way."

After that stop, Williams and running back Daniel Dufrene got down to business on a nine-play, 94 yard touchdown drive capped by Williams' 7-yard run to put Illinois up 19-7 after a failed 2-point try.

Williams punched the ball in again from a yard out on Illinois' next possession, giving the Illini a 26-7 halftime lead.

Dufrene, a 201-pound junior, finished the game with 100 yards on 13 carries, and speedy sophomore receiver Arrelious Benn added 48 on five carries and two touchdowns.

"We have a lot of different kinds of runners, "Williams said. "It gives the defense different elements to think about."

Zook said before Saturday's game that defensive improvement was his top priority. The Illini gave up 52 points and 549 to Missouri and couldn't stop the Tigers' ground game, giving up

Eastern piled up 216 yards rushing Saturday, but Zook called that a step in the right direction.

"There is still work to do but we improved from last week," he said. "We have to start grinding a little bit more and making tackles."