Peters to face former Michigan teammates

Quarterback+Brandon+Peters+%2818%29+throws+a+pass+during+their+game+vs.+Minnesota+on+Saturday.+The+Illini+will+play+against+Michigan%2C+another+Big+10+team%2C+on+Oct.+12..
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Peters to face former Michigan teammates

Quarterback Brandon Peters (18) throws a pass during their game vs. Minnesota on Saturday. The Illini will play against Michigan, another Big 10 team, on Oct. 12..

Quarterback Brandon Peters (18) throws a pass during their game vs. Minnesota on Saturday. The Illini will play against Michigan, another Big 10 team, on Oct. 12..

photo Courtesy of Illini Athletics

Quarterback Brandon Peters (18) throws a pass during their game vs. Minnesota on Saturday. The Illini will play against Michigan, another Big 10 team, on Oct. 12..

photo Courtesy of Illini Athletics

photo Courtesy of Illini Athletics

Quarterback Brandon Peters (18) throws a pass during their game vs. Minnesota on Saturday. The Illini will play against Michigan, another Big 10 team, on Oct. 12..

By Jared Farmer, Staff Writer

The weekend’s upcoming game against Michigan was one Brandon Peters had marked on his calendar. But after being sidelined at Minnesota with an injury, the transfer quarterback’s status to play against his old school remains uncertain.

“He knew we were playing Michigan when we came here. Nothing has changed, it’s Michigan week now,” head coach Lovie Smith said. “I know he’s pumped up, and of course we’re hoping he’ll be ready to go this week.”

In his first five games as an Illini, Peters has thrown for 797 yards and 10 touchdowns, while completing 74 of his 127 pass attempts.

He’s the clear choice for starting quarterback for the Illini. Isaiah Williams was given some shine in their game against Nebraska, but after two unproductive possessions, combined with his own injury problems, he’ll likely be sidelined from the action too.

“Isaiah missed last week, didn’t make the trip, all of that. But we’ve had guys heal up quickly,” Smith said. “Neither one has a season-ending injury, so we’re hopeful. We’ll need everyone to beat a team like Michigan.”

Enter Matt Robinson, the redshirt freshman from San Juan Capistrano. Robinson got some playing time versus Akron, Eastern Michigan and Nebraska before being asked to take up the mantel of quarterback last weekend against Minnesota.

In his first game with extended action, Robinson threw for 125 yards and completed 15 of his 29 passes.

“I think he did OK for a backup quarterback coming into a tough situation. We could’ve helped him with some of the passes we dropped,” Smith said. “When you’re in a situation like that, you need to rally around your running game. But as we get opportunities to pass the ball, you need to make the catch.”

He briefly jumpstarted Illinois’ offense coming in and going into the second half had two drives that pushed them into Minnesota territory, but the offense only managed to score by way of a 46-yard field goal by James McCourt. The defense was responsible for both Illini touchdowns last weekend.

“Each week we practice, we ask our backup, ‘When our go-to guy is down, that first snap, are you ready to go?’ So you have to prepare yourself with a lot of mental reps. There’s a different approach that Matt was thinking about,” Smith said. “But when you move your next option at quarterback, others have to be prepared to pick up their games. That’s what I was disappointed in as much as anything.”

Offensive coordinator Rod Smith adjusted his offense to fit the younger, more agile redshirt freshman in Robinson juxtaposed to the 6-foot-5, long-armed Peters. The Illini adjusted with two tight end formations and ran more zone-read options with Robinson running the show.

“The philosophy is still the same,” Rod said. “You may utilize the skill set of what the quarterback does, what he can do, what he does a little bit better, what his strong suit is. We just tried to use his legs a little bit more.”

“If you have a mobile quarterback, you want to run him more,” Lovie said. “When you run an option with a quarterback who can’t run the ball, it’s a different mindset for a defense versus when you have a guy that can turn into another running back that can beat you on any given play. I think an offense does change when you have somebody like that.”

Should both Peters and Williams remain sidelined, Robinson will have to take advantage of his practice reps if the Illini hope to have an answer for the Wolverines defense. Michigan currently sits at No. 3 in the Big Ten East with a record of 4-1, while the Illini are looking to end their three-game losing streak.

“I thought he did okay; he battled,” Rod said. “He didn’t play clean, but I think for his first true playing time in terms of importance, I thought he went in with a little bit of spark and moved the ball and got some points before the half. I thought we should’ve had more, but I thought he did some good things. I was excited for Matt, and hopefully, it’s something he can build upon.”

@jaredefarmer

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