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For the first time since 2007, Illinois won a nonconference road game Saturday with a 31-23 victory against Connecticut.

The Illini can celebrate the end of that impressively awful streak and an undefeated start to the season.

"We're 2-0 and that's where we want to be," coach Lovie Smith told team after the game.

Illinois last won a nonconference road game in 2007, when it beat Syracuse 41-20 en route to a second-place finish in the Big Ten and Rose Bowl berth.

But the Illini left East Hartford, Conn., with more questions than answers. They had some sloppy stretches and nearly gave the game away despite being 20-point favorites.

Here are three takeaways:

1. Illinois was its own worst enemy

On their first drive, the Illini committed the first of their three turnovers. Connecticut's Tyler Cole intercepted a Brandon Peters pass and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown. Peters, a Michigan transfer making his second start, seemed to telegraph the play for his first interception of the season.

Illinois was turnover-free in its season-opening rout of Akron.

"Turnovers more than anything hurt us," Smith told reporters after the game.

The Huskies (1-1) extended their lead to 13-0 just three seconds into in the second quarter, converting a field goal after Illinois turned the ball over on downs.

The Illini were penalized nine times for 94 yards, including three for unsportsmanlike conduct.

"There are some penalties that you get just playing hard football," Smith said. "Then there are some we got just not playing smart football. That was the case with too many today."

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2. Peters knows how to rally a team

It's undeniable that Peters and the Illini got off to a shaky start. But he showed some guts in leading the comeback.

Peters didn't get much help from the running game. The offensive line struggled, and Illinois was down two top running backs -- Mike Epstein was lost for the season after suffering a Week 1 knee injury and Reggie Corbin was held out because of a hip pointer he suffered against the Zips.

Peters' 28-yard touchdown pass to Ra'Von Bonner with 11 minutes, 43 seconds left before halftime put the Illini on the board. It was the first of three Peters touchdown passes in the quarter and sparked a remarkable run in which Illinois scored 24 unanswered points.

Peters finished 22 of 33 for 225 yards and four touchdowns -- both career highs -- including two to Josh Imatorbhebhe, a USC transfer. In two games, Peters has thrown for seven touchdowns.

Jakari Norwood had 62 yards on six carries to lead an Illini rushing attack that accounted for 130 yards.

3. The defense was (sort of) a game-saver

Last season, the Illini run defense was among the worst in the nation, allowing opponents 245.3 yards per game, ranking 121st among FBS programs.

On Saturday, Illinois held Connecticut to only 10 rushing yards on 29 carries.

Dele Harding made the play of the game, sealing the victory with an interception that stopped a Huskies drive with 2:13 remaining.

Associated Press contributed.

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