“I think the thing that made it feel a lot better (than last week) was that we finished the game the way we wanted to,’’ Hull said. “That was by grinding the ball out. This offense is very unselfish. We are happy to see touchdowns being scored, no matter who scores them.’’
And while the offense had another big game, the Illinois defense also had several big plays, including a fourth down stop with 7:55 left in the third quarter.
Cincinnati quarterback Munchie Legaux attempted to dive into the end zone on a fourth-and-goal play from the Illinois 1, on second effort Legaux was originally credited with a touchdown. But after a replay review, the video showed that Illinois defensive back Earnest Thomas had forced a fumble just outside of the end zone. And while Cincinnati’s Chris Moore recovered the fumble in the end zone, college rules state that only the player fumbling the ball can advance it for a touchdown.
“I didn’t think he was in and I was going to challenge it, if it wasn’t reviewed,’’ Beckman said. “I thought (Earnest) came in there and forced the ball out.’’
Illinois had gotten the stop and their 21-10 lead was still in tact.
“That was huge,’’ said Illinois senior linebacker Jonathan Brown, who had a team-high 14 tackles. “That would have brought the game within four points, but I’m proud of my guys, because we stood up and made the play.’’
Illinois turned the momentum in a 99-yard scoring drive.
“When we needed the stop by the defense, we got it,’’ Scheelhaase said. “When we needed a big drive by the offense, that’s exactly what we got.
“We had guys stepping up at those crucial moments and that’s great to see.’’
Most people called it a statement victory for Illinois, which was 2-10 in the first season under Beckman. How did he see it?