Wes Lunt to return Saturday for Illinois football

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Wes Lunt to return Saturday for Illinois football

Illinois' Wes Lunt (12) attempts a pass during the game against Purdue at Memorial Stadium on Saturday Oct. 4.

Illinois' Wes Lunt (12) attempts a pass during the game against Purdue at Memorial Stadium on Saturday Oct. 4.

Daily Illini File Photo

Illinois' Wes Lunt (12) attempts a pass during the game against Purdue at Memorial Stadium on Saturday Oct. 4.

Daily Illini File Photo

Daily Illini File Photo

Illinois' Wes Lunt (12) attempts a pass during the game against Purdue at Memorial Stadium on Saturday Oct. 4.

By Sean Neumann

Wes Lunt will return for the Illini this Saturday.

The starting quarterback has missed four of the last five games since fracturing his fibula.

Illinois coach Tim Beckman said the sophomore will start Saturday against Iowa.

“I feel good,” Lunt said. “The bone, they said it’s four-to-six weeks, but it’s healed enough to withstand hits.”

At the time of the injury, Lunt was ranked 10th in the nation in completions per game (25.4) and 14th in passing yards per game (313.8).

Lunt said he’s looking to get into a similar rhythm Saturday and gain back confidence.

“Getting timing back is going to be the biggest thing,” Lunt said. “Not being able to play was tough.”

Although the injury wasn’t announced until early October, Lunt said he thinks the injury happened during Illinois’ 44-19 loss to Washington on Sept. 13.

“After that game, I felt some pain in my leg and I thought it was a Charley horse, so I never got an X-ray,” Lunt said. “It just kept getting worse and worse through Texas State and Purdue, and just through practice and getting hit, it just got worse.” 

 

Offensive line injuries

The Illini have also been dealing with injuries on the offensive line.

Right guard Ted Karras tore his ACL and MCL during Illinois’ 55-14 loss at Ohio State last week.

The junior had started every game at right guard this season.

Beckman said left tackle Simon Cvijanovic will start against Iowa. The senior left late in the game against Ohio State.

As a unit, the offensive line has allowed more than three sacks per game, which is tied for 111th in the nation.

With an injury-prone quarterback returning, Illinois is desperately looking for better protection on the line.

“If that means keeping extra players in to protect or whatever that means, we’ve got to be able to have that happen,” Beckman said.

But Illinois is running out of linemen. The line is already jumbled heading into Saturday’s game, with linemen Michael Heitz, Alex Hill and Joe Spencer all starting while simultaneously backing each other up on the depth chart. 

“It’s a big concern,” offensive coordinator Bill Cubit said. “We’ve just got to be smart.”

 

Illinois’ opportunities dwindling

Beckman has stressed his belief in treating the season like four quarters all year. 

Now, his team finds itself in the “fourth quarter” of the season, needing two wins in its next three games to reach bowl eligibility.

This season marks the latest point in a season the Illini have been bowl eligible under Beckman.

“We have been very successful in the fourth quarter of football games,” Beckman said. “We’ve talked about finishing and we’ve talked about what we need to get accomplished in these last three football games.”

But while Beckman’s Illini have performed well in fourth quarters, outscoring opponents 87-56 in the final quarter, the team still needs to come away with wins — something it has only done twice in its last seven games.

Sean can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter

@neumannthehuman.