UPDATED: Illini rout Kent State in season opener

Illinois running back Josh Ferguson celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the game against Kent State at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, September 5.

By Michal Dwojak

Illinois football players didn’t show any rust after the start of the 2015 season was delayed by a day.

The Illini started the season Saturday against Kent State
at Memorial Stadium after Friday’s planned season opener was postponed due to
inclement weather. Once the Golden Flashes kicked off the ball to start the
game, Illinois’ starters dominated a game that was never close. 

After an offseason filled with only off-the-field news, the
players were relieved to finally start answering questions about their
performance after Illinois defeated Kent State 52-3. 

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“All these things happened around us are just things trying
to get us off beat, off track, what we’ve been preparing for” linebacker Mason Monheim said. “It
was nice to just get that win under our belt.”

Illinois’ defense started the game with a three-and-out that included two plays with negative yardage and an incomplete pass. The Illini kept up the pressure for the rest of the first half, forcing Kent State quarterback Colin Reardon to throw three interceptions — Eaton Spence, Mason Monheim and Taylor Barton nabbed one each. 

The defense limited Kent State to 102 yards in the first half, 58 of which were gained on one play. The Golden Flashes finished with 245 yards and only managed to score in the second half against Illinois’ second-string defense. 

Head coach Bill Cubit wanted his coaching staff to congratulate the players every time they forced a three-and-out. The coaches’ reassurance helped encourage the players, something Cubit said he was happy to see. 

“I want them to feel like they did an unbelievable job when
they got off, which they did,” Cubit said about three-and-outs. “I think
sometimes we sit around and we don’t meet as a team and that was a big thing we
did today.”

Strong defensive play and special teams coverage helped Illinois’ offense start drives with good field position. The Illini scored on their first two drives, the first ending with a two-yard pass from quarterback Wes Lunt to tight end Tyler White and the second concluding with a 34-yard pass from Lunt to wide receiver Marchie Murdock. 

Illinois ended the first quarter with a 28-0 lead and had a 38-0 lead at the end of the first half — the first time the Illini scored 38 points in the first half since they equaled that total against California in 2001. Lunt finished the game with 162 yards, four touchdowns and a 199 quarterback rating before he was pulled in the middle of the third quarter. All four of Lunt’s touchdowns were thrown to different receivers. 

Running back Josh Ferguson finished the game with 76 rushing yards and a touchdown along with 21 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown. Geronimo Allison finished the game as the top receiver with 57 yards and one touchdown. 

The large lead allowed the second-string players to get some playing time. Freshman running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn ran for 43 yards and scored his first touchdown in the third quarter. 

Although the margin was not close, Illinois was not perfect. The Illini had eight penalties for 80 yards and the players know there’s plenty of work they need to accomplish. 

“We have to stop the penalties that are self-inflicting on
my part, the delay of games, just stupid things that we can easily fix,” quarterb