CHAMPAIGN — Two of Eastern Michigan's passing touchdowns came on plays of 30 yards or more.
Big plays were a problem for the Illinois defense in Saturday's 34-31 loss to Eastern Michigan at home. The Illini gave up seven "chunk plays" in the air (a play of 15 or more yards) and six on the ground (runs of 10 or more yards).
Eastern Michigan's longest pass of the game came on a 54-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Mike Glass III to receiver Mathew Sexton in the first quarter, and the Illini allowed passes of 25 or more yards two other times in the game.
The Eagles (2-1) had a long run of 47 yards, by backup quarterback Jarius Grissom. The 13 "chunk plays" were just three fewer than Illinois had combined in its previous two games. Before Saturday, Illinois hadn't allowed a pass of more than 40 yards.
Illinois had just one sack and two hurries against Eastern Michigan.
“They were behind us," head coach Lovie Smith said. "They made plays and we didn’t. I think it’s as simple as that. Normally when that’s the case, pass rush is not good, a combination of both of those and I would say that today."
Big return for Corbin
After missing last week against UConn, Illinois star running back Reggie Corbin returned against Eastern Michigan and rushed 18 times for 144 yards and a touchdown.
He likely would have had more yards, had it not been for holding penalties.
His big game came in a loss, but he's back able to practice and wants to help right the ship in practice.
“I haven’t been able to practice much because of the hip pointer," Corbin said. "I’m back to practice now and I’ve got to lead by example."
No change at quarterback
Illinois quarterback Brandon Peters got hit hard in the second quarter on third down and temporarily left the game. He didn't miss any offensive snaps, but said he "got the wind knocked out of him."
You have free articles remaining.
He missed a few passes to his receivers during a rough offensive stretch in the second and third quarters, but didn't attribute the hit to those struggles.
"I just needed a second to catch my breath, but it didn’t really affect me," Peters said.
Despite Peters' struggles, Smith didn't consider a quarterback change. Peters was 23-of-37 for 297 yards and two touchdowns with an interception and a fumble. He threw for 98 of those yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“There were a lot of us that struggled today," Peters said. "Brandon was just a part of it. No we didn’t. Brandon is our quarterback. A lot of people have to do a better job, Brandon being one of them, me being one of them."
McCourt has plenty of leg power
Illinois kicker James McCourt hit a 57-yard field goal in the first quarter, tying the Illinois record for longest field goal.
McCourt beat out redshirt freshman Caleb Griffin for the starting kicker job in training camp, and replaces Big Ten Kicker of the Year Chase McLaughlin, who played his final season in Champaign last year.
He missed his first field goal attempt of the season in Week 1 against Akron, but has made two of his next three and every extra point attempt.
"Just missing the short field goal at the first game, I kind of took the approach that it was the best thing that was gonna happen to me this season because it’s gonna get me ready for bigger kicks and get my misses out earlier," McCourt said.
Shelbyville senior Kentrell Beck was on an unofficial visit for the game. He said he was invited by Illinois Director of Football Student-Athlete Development Pat Embleton.
Beck, a 6-foot-2, 200-pounder who is playing quarterback for the Rams this year, but is likely a receiver in college, was a fan of the new Henry Dale and Betty Smith Football Performance Center.
He also took an unofficial visit to Northern Iowa last week.