Illini Drop Finale to Wildcats in Football


Published on November 27 2017 6:39 am
Last Updated on November 27 2017 6:39 am
Written by Millie Lange

CHAMPAIGN -- Freshman quarterback Cam Thomas scored on a 23-yard run and threw for 139 yards in Illinois' season-finale loss to Northwestern, 42-7, Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Thomas became the third Illinois true freshman to start two games at QB in program history, joining Isiah "Juice" Williams (2006, 9G) and Kurt Kittner (1998, 5G).

Dre Brown amassed 184 all-purpose yards -- the bulk of which came on two 50-plus yard kickoff returns.  

On the Board Early

After forcing a Northwestern punt on the opening drive of the game, the Illini offense got on the board with a 23-yard touchdown run by freshman quarterback Cam Thomas, the first rushing touchdown of his career. The score capped off a 12 play, 69-yard drive and gave the Illini an early 7-0 advantage.

Williams Pick

With the Wildcats threatening late in the first quarter, freshman defensive back Bennett Williams jumped in front of a Clayton Thorson pass, intercepting it at the goal line and returning it to the Illinois 16-yard line. The interception is the third of the season for Williams, which leads the Illini defense.

Team Notes

• Illinois leads the all-time series was 55-51-5, and leads was 26-22-2 in Champaign.

• Illinois started eight true freshmen (QB Cam Thomas, WR Ricky Smalling, TE Louis Dorsey, OL Alex Palczewski, OL Vederian Lowe, DB Nate Hobbs, DE Bobby Roundtree, DB Bennett Williams).

• 2017 Freshman Starters by Game: 3, 7, 10, 8, 8, 9, 8, 7, 7, 6, 6, 7 (previous program record: 5)

• Illinois' eight true freshmen starters are tied for the third-most in a game in program history. The record of 10 was set at South Florida earlier this season.

• Illinois' most cumulative true freshmen starts in a season: 87 (2017), 34 (1977), 33 (2006)

• Illinois has used 31 first-time starters in 2017, the second-most in the nation (added Dre Brown today).

• 2017 Freshman Offensive Starters by Game: 0, 4, 5, 4, 6, 6, 5, 4, 4, 4, 4, 5 (51 cumulative)

• 2017 Freshman Defensive Starters by Game: 3, 3, 5, 4, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 2, 2, 3 (36 cumulative)

• Both of Illinois' offensive true freshmen cumulative starts (51) and defensive true freshmen cumulative starts (36) surpassed the previous program record for total true freshmen cumulative starts (34 in 1977).

• Illinois captains: OL Nick Allegretti, DE James Crawford, RB Kendrick Foster, K Chase McLaughlin, DT Tymir Oliver

Individual Notes

• Freshman QB Cam Thomas became the third Illinois true freshman to start two games at quarterback in program history, joining Isiah "Juice" Williams (2006, 9G) and Kurt Kittner (1998, 5G).

• Freshman QB Cam Thomas scored his first career rushing touchdown on a 23-yard run. Thomas had a career-high 139 passing yards.

• Freshman DB Bennett Williams had his third career interception.

• Redshirt freshman RB Dre Brown made his first career start.

• Brown had a 50-yard kickoff return in the second quarter, the longest by an Illini since a 67-yard return by V'Angelo Bentley vs. Youngstown State, 8/30/2014.

     • Brown's 32-yard kickoff return average is tenth all-time in Illinois single-game history.  

     • Brown had a career-high 184 all-purpose yards.

     • Brown caught his first career reception.

• Senior WR Malik Turner moved into ninth place on Illinois' career receptions list with 143 receptions. He also finished ninth in career receiving yards (1,804)

• Junior LB Tre Watson had a career-high eight solo tackles. Watson led the team with 12 tackles.

• Junior OL Nick Allegretti started for the 24th straight game.

• Senior OL Christian DiLauro started for the 38th and final time in his career.