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The Day After: Illinois football comeback bid fails at Kansas



Illinois football
Sep 8, 2023; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini quarterback Luke Altmyer (9) runs for a touchdown against the Kansas Jayhawks during the second half at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois football rallied but came up short against the Jayhawks in Lawrence.

Illinois Football blinked and found themselves down 31-7. By the time they opened their eyes, it was too little, too late. Kansas defended its home field, winning 34-23 Friday night in Lawrence. Head coach Lance Leipold pulled the rope-a-dope at the beginning of the game. Backup quarterback Jason Bean ran onto the field with Jalon Daniels on the game’s opening play. Daniels’ stiff back, which kept him out of the season opener, seemed to be just fine.

Daniels threw for 277 yards and ran for 24 more in the Jayhawks’ win. “I could tell today when we were doing some walkthrough stuff Jalon felt good. He was really anxious to play,” Kansas coach Lance Leipold said. “I felt he was ready. I didn’t see any apprehension that he was worried about anything.”

Running back Devin Neal ran for 120 yards as the Jayhawks gained 262 yards rushing and 539 total yards.

Illinois trailed 34-7 before Luke Altmyer scored his first of two rushing touchdowns. The Illini converted on both of its two-point conversions in the fourth quarter. Altmyer was intercepted late in the fourth quarter, ending the comeback for Illinois. “We still had plenty of time; we just had to manage it,” Illini coach Bret Bielema said. “We just haven’t been in this moment, and it’s definitely something we have to correct. I promise you, in the Big Ten, we’re going to have these exact scenarios.”

Illinois Football: The Good and the Bad from Friday night.

Quarterback Luke Altmyer played well despite throwing two interceptions. The defense adjusted, allowing six second-half points. Defensive end Jer’Zhan Newton registered his first sack of the season. The defense did make adjustments, allowing just six points in the second half. There was plenty of bad, however. Many of the same issues Illinois had against Toledo crept up against Kansas. Illinois’ offense was stagnant in the first half.

The Illini’s first four possessions resulted in four punts. Two of those four drives were three-and-outs. When the Illini did score late in the first half, the defense gave the touchdown right back late in the first half. Speaking of the defense, they had issues along the line of scrimmage again. Kansas averaged 9.6 yards per pass and six yards per rush. The Jayhawks pushed Illinois’ front around, and the offense moved the ball easily.

Like the defense, the offense had issues upfront. The offensive line had problems blocking Kansas. Take away Altmyer’s 70-yard touchdown run, and the Illini ran for 2.46 yards per rush. Illinois committed silly penalties as well. There’s a lot to get fixed in Champaign.



Armchair Illini is a comprehensive site dedicated to covering University of Illinois Athletics owned and operated by Alex Kyi. Dante Pryor has been writing about College Football for years on Saturday Blitz and is now the Lead Football Author for Armchair Illini.