UW coach Chris Petersen clearly did a lot of “coaching up” in the week since his Huskies escaped with a 59-52 win over upstart Eastern Washington, especially defensively. With linebacker Shaq Thompson scoring on a 36-yard interception return and 52-yard fumble run back, Washington (3-0) rolled to a stands-emptying 44-19 victory over Illinois Saturday.
Unlike a week ago, when the outcome remained in doubt in the fourth quarter, Washington romped to big leads — 21-0 at the end of the first quarter, 38-12 at halftime — and kept the pressure on. With Georgia State of the Sun Belt Conference due in next week, the Huskies remain on track for a 4-0 start before Pac-12 Conference play begins Sept. 27 against Stanford.
Starting with John Ross’s 55-yard kickoff return to open the game, helping set up Jesse Callier’s three-yard TD run, Washington dominated the Illini throughout the first half with three big plays highlighting the festival of points: A 75-yard TD bomb from Cyler Miles to Ross, Thompson’s 36-yard TD off a theft, and his 52-yard fumble-return score.
With a 38-12 halftime lead established, Petersen elected to grind it out in the final two quarters against the previously undefeated Illini. Curiously, Illinois elected not to challenge Washington’s inexperienced secondary — junior corner Marcus Peters sat out due to a suspension and redshirt frosh CB Jermaine Kelly is out for the season with an ankle broken in practice — until late in the second quarter, then not much in the second half.
Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt (224 yards, two TDs, one INT) threw only one deep ball that connected, a 60-yard touchdown to Geronimo Allison (six catches, 160 yards), just before halftime.
Miles, who completed his first nine passes, threw for 187 yards and one touchdown. He was never in a position to score via the run as he was last week against Eastern, when he ran for three. Eight other Huskies collaborated for 190 of Washington’s 235 yards rushing, and eight UW receivers caught passes, led by Jaydon Mickens, who snagged five for 75 yards.
Ross nearly produced one of the most remarkable days in UW history. In addition to his 55-yard kickoff return and 75-yard TD catch, he broke a 100-yard kickoff return that was called back due to an illegal block.
Washington amassed 454 yards to Illinois’ 351 and held the Illini to 78 yards on the ground. Illinois also had three turnovers to Washington’s one.
NOTES: Washington is 7-4 all-time against the Illini . . . Petersen is the first Washington coach to start a career 3-0 since Jimmy Phelan in 1930 . . . Ross has three touchdown passes this year covering 91 (Hawaii), 55 (Eastern Washington) and 75 yards (Illinois) . . .Thompson’s 52-yard fumble return TD was the first such score for Washington since Terry (Tank) Johnson had one against Idaho Sept. 20, 2003 . . .The Huskies dominated the clock, holding the ball for 35:04 to Illinois’ 24:56.
NEXT: The Huskies continue their four-game home stand Saturday at 3 p.m. against Georgia State of the Sun Belt Conference. Washington has never faced the Panthers, who lost to Air Force Saturday 48-38 and is 1-2 under head coach Trent Miles, who served as UW’s running backs coach from 2005-07 under Tyrone Willingham.
1st Qtr. (UW 7-0): Jesse Callier 3-yard run (Cameron Van Winkle kick), 10:16. Drive: 12 plays, 46 yards in 4:44. Key Plays: John Ross 55-yard kickoff return; Cyler Miles 9-yard scramble for first down to Illinois 35; Mickens 4-yard pass from Miles on 4th and 7.
1st Qtr. (Illinois 7-3): Taylor Zalewiski 25-yard field goal, 5:47. Drive: 11 plays, 62 yards in 4:29. Key Play: Jon Davis 7-yard run on 4th down.
1st Qtr. (UW, 14-3): Ross 75-yard pass from Miles (Van Winkle kick), 5:34. Drive: 1 play, 75 yards in 0:13.
1t Qtr. (UW, 21-3). Shaq Thompson 36-yard interception return (Van Winkle kick), 4:11.
2nd Qtr. (UW 28-3): Dwayne Washington 12-yard run (Van Winkle kick), 14:53. Drive: 8 plays, 75 yards in 3:37. Key Play: Mickens 28-yard pass from WR Marvin Hall.
2nd Qtr. (Illinois 28-5): Korey Durkee -1 yards for a safety, 11:30.
2nd Qtr. (UW 35-5): Thompson 52-yard fumble return (Van Winkle kick), 10:33.
2nd Qtr. (Illinois, 35-12): Geronimo Allison 60-yard pass from Wes Lunt (Zalewiski kick), 1:17. Drive: 5 plays, 80 yards in 2:08.
2nd Qtr. (UW 38-12): Van Winkle 18-yard field goal., 0:01. Drive: 8 plays, 90 yards in 1:16. Key Play: Darrell Daniels 28-yard pass from Miles.
3rd Qtr. (Illinois 38-19): Allison 27-yard pass from Lunt (Zalewiski kick), 7:34. Drive: 5 plays, 66 yards in 1:30. Key Play: Allison 37-yard pass from Lunt to the UW 16-yard line.
3rd Qtr. (UW 41-19): Van Winkle 25-yard field goal, 14:54. Drive: 9 plays, 47 yards in 4:09. Key Play: Miles 19-yard scramble on 3rd and 17.
4th Qtr. (UW 44-19): Van Winkle 51-yard field goal, 6:21. Drive: 11 plays, 43 yards in 6:00.