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Hoosiers have new life, Illini on life support

10/17/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

After three consecutive losses capped by a disastrous effort against Virginia, Indiana really needed a night like this one.

Quarterback Ben Chappell dissected Illinois' defense and turned in his best performance as a Hoosier as Indiana won 27-14 on homecoming. The Hoosiers improved to 4-3 and revived their bowl hopes heading into a huge game next week against Northwestern (4-3, 1-2).

Chappell really came on strong after a scoreless first quarter, completing 23 of 38 passes for 333 yards and three touchdowns. Indiana's young wide receivers Tandon Doss and Damarlo Belcher continue to blossom, as each sophomore hauled in a touchdown pass. Doss has quietly become one of the Big Ten's best wideouts and recorded seven receptions for 130 yards on Saturday night. Fellow wideout Mitchell Evans sparked Indiana's ground game with 84 rush yards on nine carries. The Hoosiers defense gave up a lot of yards (443) but limited points and forced three Illinois fumbles.

The Illini drop to 1-5, continuing one of the most stunning downward spirals I can remember. Just two years ago, we were talking about a Rose Bowl team and a recruiting powerhouse. Now, Illinois has cemented itself as the Big Ten's worst team, and head coach Ron Zook could have a rough time saving his job. Senior quarterback Juice Williams returned to the starting lineup and tossed two touchdowns, but his fumble late in the third quarter changed the game. Illinois appeared headed for the g0-ahead touchdown when Hoosiers defensive end Jammie Kirlew jarred the ball loose at the 6-yard line. Indiana answered with a 44-yard touchdown to Doss.

This was a must-win for Illinois and Zook, and barring a shocking turnaround, the Illini will miss the postseason for the second straight year. They now head to Purdue to face a team coming off its biggest win in years.

  • Illinois safety Donsay Hardeman was taken to a local hospital after sustaining an injury in the first half. A team spokeswoman said Hardeman, who underwent neck surgery in the offseason, was able to move his arms and legs.