CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Backup quarterback Eddie McGee replaced an injured Juice Williams and led Illinois to a comfortable 45-17 win over Illinois State Saturday night.
The Illini (1-1) came into their home opener looking to cure the ills left over by last week's 37-9 loss to Missouri. But they lost Williams, their leading rusher and the Big Ten's top passer a year ago, on the game's first series. He injured his right quadriceps on a 49-year run and fell to the turf a yard shy of the game's first TD.
After Jason Ford scored on the next play, Williams came out of the game and did not return.
Behind McGee, the Illini battered the Redbirds with a selective passing game and a heavy dose of running. Illinois had 384 rushing yards, 137 of them from Ford, a sophomore.
Illinois led 24-0 at halftime with McGee running for one touchdown and passing for another. He was 13 of 17 for 164 yards and an interception, and he ran for 55 yards and two touchdowns.
McGee kept the ball on the option for his first TD, a 1-yarder over right tackle that gave the Illini a 14-0 lead with 3:43 left in the first quarter.
McGee hit receiver Chris Duvalt for a 27-yard touchdown and a 21-0 lead in the second quarter.
The Redbirds (0-2), who lost to Eastern Illinois 31-6 last week, got a strong performance from Matt Brown. The redshirt freshman, starting for the injured Drew Kiel, completed 27 of 45 passes for two touchdowns and one interception.
But Illinois State couldn't score until 8:42 remained in the third quarter, when Brown found Eyad Salem for a 3-yard TD, cutting Illinois' lead to 31-7. Salem caught seven passes for 103 yards and both Redbird touchdowns.
The Illini played without starting middle linebacker Martez Wilson. The junior was out with a neck injury.