Illini look to continue second-half momentum into weekend matchup

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Illini look to continue second-half momentum into weekend matchup

Illinois running back Reggie Corbin shakes off a defender during the game against Kent State at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Corbin looks to be a big part of
this year’s offense.

Illinois running back Reggie Corbin shakes off a defender during the game against Kent State at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Corbin looks to be a big part of this year’s offense.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois running back Reggie Corbin shakes off a defender during the game against Kent State at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Corbin looks to be a big part of this year’s offense.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois running back Reggie Corbin shakes off a defender during the game against Kent State at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Corbin looks to be a big part of this year’s offense.

By Tatiania Perry and Staff writer

After a sloppy first half, the Illini are confident that the second half of Saturday’s game has sent them in the right direction. 

The team took away a lot from that close-call matchup with Kent State, with running back Reggie Corbin emphasizing the importance of maintaining a level head during the postgame. This was especially important after the stadium filled with a symphony of boos, showing the fans’ disapproval of the team’s poor playing.

“We’re a family,” Corbin said. “Some families get down and start to point the finger and things like that, but in the end, they always come together.”

Though the coaching staff didn’t spend much time talking about the rough start in the halftime locker room, offensive coordinator Rod Smith did make it a point to tell the quarterbacks he didn’t want to see a half like that again.

Making his Illini debut against Kent State, quarterback AJ Bush rushed for 139 yards, the fifth-most all-time by an Illinois quarterback. He is the first Big Ten quarterback with at least 190 passing yards and 139 rushing yards in a game since Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett in 2014.

The linebacker duo Del’Shawn Phillips and Jake Hansen rank 1-2 in Big Ten tackles after combining for 27 stops in Week 1. Hansen added a school-record 6.0 tackles for loss.

“We’ve waited for Jake to come out for a long period of time,” said head coach Lovie Smith. “He’s healthy now; lots of tackles. He played outstanding ball … just one of those really outstanding games.”

Running back Reggie Corbin had his first career two-touchdown game last week against Kent State, including a 39-yard touchdown run to tie the game in the third quarter. Corbin had 10 rushes for 79 yards, after having only 78 rushing yards on 18 carries to total out last season.

“Reggie was outstanding running the ball,” Lovie said. “That run down the sideline gives you goosebumps up your body. He’s capable of that, and I thought he played, overall, a good game with everything.”

The next game and in-state showdown will be the third meeting between Illinois and Western. The Illini have yet to give up a single point to the Leathernecks, outscoring them 65-0 in the combined meetings.

Illinois is 16-0 against FCS opponents, averaging 43 points per game with a 29.5 winning margin.

Although, despite the Illini’s long-running dominance, Smith notes practices this week will be critical.

“Different than what we’ve seen,” Lovie said. “It’s been a long period of time before we have seen a team that huddles in between plays and more of a traditional two-back, regular personnel type. We haven’t gone against an offense like this in a long period of time.”

The more traditional style of offense will pose a new challenge for Illinois, but Smith is confident the team will be ready for it.

“We’re the flagship university of this state, so we understand how big this game is,” Lovie said.

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