Illini experience deja vu in loss

Quarterback Juice Williams (7) attempts a pass during the second half of the game against Ohio University, Saturday October 14th, 2006. Ohio won 20-17. Beck Diefenbach, The Daily Illini

Quarterback Juice Williams (7) attempts a pass during the second half of the game against Ohio University, Saturday October 14th, 2006. Ohio won 20-17. Beck Diefenbach, The Daily Illini

By Jason Grodsky

For the third straight week, the Illinois football game came down to a last second field goal, and for the second straight week, the Illini came out on the losing end.

Ohio University senior place kicker Matt Lasher came through in the clutch for the Bobcats, nailing a 32-yard field goal with five seconds remaining to give Ohio a 20-17 win on the road over the Illini Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.

“This is tough in general, but especially because this was a game we had a chance to win,” Illini junior safety Kevin Mitchell said. “But you have to give them credit because they made plays.”

Lasher’s field goal was set up by an Illinois fumble by sophomore receiver Kyle Hudson on the Illini’s 16-yard line with 1:03 remaining in the game.

The Illini had one opportunity to return the ensuing kick-off for a touchdown but we’re unsuccessful as time expired. For the second straight week, the team walked off the field with their heads hung low.

“We had a couple of tough breaks and didn’t capitalize on a couple of situations that we needed to,” Illini freshman quarterback Juice Williams said. “We just didn’t bring our A-game today.”

Ohio controlled the game’s tempo for most of the first half and held the Illini to just 53 yards of total offense in the first quarter.

Illini junior place kicker Jason Reda put the Illini ahead 3-0 early in the second quarter with 25-yard field goal, but Illinois’ lead didn’t last long.

Ohio quickly responded with a four-play 80-yard drive that was capped off by a two-yard touchdown run by Bobcats’ running back Kalvin McRae to put Ohio on top 7-3.

McRae found the end zone once again on a 17-yard touchdown run later in the second quarter following a punt block by Ohio junior Josh Abrams. Abrams became the second player this year to block an Illini punt, stepping in front of Illini freshman Kyle Yelton’s punt attempt and allowing Bobcats senior Ahmona Maxwell to return it to the Illini 19-yard line.

“We’re giving them too many chances,” Mitchell said.

“We could’ve won the game if we would’ve taken care of the ball, but we didn’t do that in all three phases of the game. If we want to get this program to where we know it can get, we have to eliminate all of that stuff in all three phases of the game,” he added.

Illinois got back on the board with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Williams to fellow freshman Jeff Cumberland with 24 seconds remaining in the first half to cut the Bobcats lead to four at 14-10.

The touchdown catch was Cumberland’s first of his career wearing Orange and Blue.

Trailing 17-10 in the fourth quarter, Williams provided the offense with another much needed spark, completing consecutive 44-yard passes.

The first coming on a third-and-28 from the Illini 12-yard line to sophomore Jody Ellis that gave the Illini a first down on the Ohio 44-yard line, and the second to junior Frank Lenti resulting in an Illini touchdown to tie the game at 17-17.

“We were on the same page and able to make a couple big plays,” Williams said.

Illinois’ defense gave the team a chance to win late, stopping Ohio on a third-and-2 and forcing the Bobcats to punt with under three minutes to play.

However, Hudson’s fumble two plays later gave the Bobcats the ball back in great field position to set up Lasher’s game-winning kick.

“We’re going to find out what kind of men we are now,” head coach Ron Zook said.

“We’re going to have to circle the wagons and we’re going to find out exactly what we’re made of and where we’re at,” he added.