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
"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
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
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
"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.