Big Ten Country

Illinois looks to get season back on track against FAU before diving into Big Ten play


CHAMPAIGN, ILLINOIS – SEPTEMBER 16: Reggie Love III #23 of the Illinois Fighting Illini celebrates a touchdown during the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Memorial Stadium on September 16, 2023 in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

After a disappointing 30-13 loss last week to Penn State, Illinois is aiming to get their season back on track before they dive headlong into Big Ten play.

Florida Atlantic lost 48-14 to Clemson last week and also lost starting QB Casey Thompson, a former starter at Texas and Nebraska, for the season when he tore his ACL. Now it’s up to Central Michigan transfer Daniel Richardson to guide the Owls’ offense.


Illinois offense vs. Florida Atlantic defense. Illinois QB Luke Altmyer threw four interceptions vs. Penn State and the Illini rushed for just 62 yards. The Florida Atlantic defense has playmakers in DB Darius McClendon (No. 12 nationally in fumbles forced) and DB Jarron Morris (No. 8 in passes defended).


Florida Atlantic: Receiver LaJohntay Wester has caught 30 passes. The other 14 Florida Atlantic receivers have a total of 42 receptions. Wester is averaging 10 catches per game, which ranks him second nationally. The junior had 12 catches for 108 yards vs. Clemson and became Florida Atlantic’s all-time receptions leader with 174.

Illinois: Isaiah Williams is one of the most reliable receivers in the nation. He’s caught at least one pass in all 28 games since he switched from quarterback prior to the 2021 season and he has at least three catches in 17 straight games. He’s second in the Big Ten in receptions (16) and his 11 first-down catches is tied for second in the Big Ten.


Illinois’ Jer’Zhan Newton had seven quarterback pressures vs. Penn State, the most by a Power Five defensive tackle in a game this season. ... Keith Randolph Jr., Newton’s partner in their two-man “Law Firm,” leads the nation in tackles by a defensive lineman (20). ... This is Florida Atlantic’s first season in the American Athletic Conference. Illinois is 6-4 all-time against teams currently in the conference. ... Florida Atlantic is 1-2 against teams from the state of Illinois. The Owls lost twice to Eastern Illinois and QB Tony Romo. ... Florida Atlantic caused a stir when the team gathered at midfield on the paw logo at Clemson before the game. Coach Tom Herman said that’s how his team ends its pre-game warmup, home or away.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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