Three and out: Illinois avenges last season’s loss with stellar defensive performance over Virginia

By Carson Gourdie, Sports Video Editor

Three and Out: Illinois’ defense shines in Virginia victory

Carson Gourdie and Jonathan Alday discuss Illinois’ 24-3 victory over Virginia.

When Illinois was listed as a 4-point favorite over Virginia, who blew out the Illini 42-14 last season, it came as a surprise. Indiana was a tough loss just one week ago — the defense lost steam in the final drive and Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong is one of the top signal-callers in the country. A bowl game seemed out of reach. 

Then Ryan Walters’ defense took the field. 

Behind an improved pass rush and a strong performance from the secondary, the Illini frustrated and stifled one of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s top offenses in a 24-3 victory, laying the groundwork for a bowl appearance. 

Last season, the Illini surrendered over 400 passing yards to Armstrong. This year: less than 200. While Armstrong did miss some easy throws, the front seven’s ability to force consistent pressure in the second half forced timely interceptions and halted a comeback bid by the Cavaliers.

Walters, who received a lucrative contract extension last off-season, showcased his defense’s ability to adapt to high-powered offenses. After getting torched at times by Indiana last week, the Illinois secondary allowed Virginia pass catchers very little separation.

While the defense shined, the offensive performance was mixed. Junior running back Chase Brown provided another 140-yard plus game, the tight ends got a lot of action and fifth-year senior quarterback Tommy DeVito made clutch deep passes that helped the Illini pull away from the ACC squad. However, four turnovers, penalties and two missed field goals by junior place kicker Caleb Griffin kept this game closer than it should’ve been. 

But the Illini won, avenging the blowout loss from last season. With Wisconsin and Iowa falling this week because of poor offensive performances, the Big Ten West appears to be wide open. 

 

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