Falling behind and getting trounced was a common sight with the Illinois football program a year ago.
So when the Washington Huskies scored on their first three possessions of the second half, taking a 31-10 lead, you could almost sense the Illini fans were getting ready for another rout.
Instead, the 47,312 at Soldier Field in Chicago saw the fight return to the Fighting Illini football program.
Illinois (2-1) rallied, closing with 31-24 with nine minutes left, but Washington, rated No. 19, held on for a 34-24 victory. It was the Huskies first non-conference road victory since 2007.
"I was proud of the way the team competed for four quarters,'' Illinois coach Tim Beckman said.
The Illinois players echoed the sentiments of their coach.
"Last year, if we got down early in the game or right after halftime like we did today, we usually packed it in,'' said Illinois junior defensive tackle Austin Teitsma. "But, we've got great leadership on the team in JB (Jonathan Brown), Houston Bates, Tim Kynard. Those guys are pulling us together.
"I'm disappointed in the loss, but I'm also pumped because I'm seeing a change in our team.''
Brown, who finished with a game-high 15 tackles, admitted his team looked differently this year against a nationally-ranked squad like Washington.
"I was proud of the way the guys stood up and fought all the way to the end,'' said Brown. "They definitely showed heart. With a performance like that you can find the things that you need to improve on.''
And the No. 1 thing that the Illinois defense will need to improve this season — tackling.
"Defensively, we did not slow them down,'' said Beckman as the Washington offense rolled up 615 yards of total offense. "Tackling was a major concern. We have to tackle better when we are playing a team that is a top-20 football team.''