Illinois hoping to ride running attack to win vs Rutgers

AP

Print Article

  • FILE - In this Oct. 7, 2017, file photo, Illinois running back Ra'Von Bonner (21) celebrates after scoring on a two-yard touchdown run during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. Illinois piled up 200 rushing yards in a loss at Iowa last weekend, using primarily three running backs to do it. The Illini are hoping to ride the run to a win at home against Rutgers this Saturday. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

  • 1

    FILE - In this Sept. 2, 2017, file photo, Illinois running back Mike Epstein (26) runs the ball during an NCAA college football game against Ball State at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill. The Illinois offense is ranked last in the Big Ten, but not because of the run game. Illinois piled up 200 rushing yards in a loss at Iowa last weekend, using primarily three running backs to do it. The Illini are hoping to ride the run to a win at home against Rutgers this Saturday. (AP Photo/Bradley Leeb, File)

  • 2

    FILE - In this Oct. 7, 2017, file photo, Illinois running back Reggie Corbin (2) runs from Iowa defensive back Brandon Snyder during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Iowa City, Iowa. Illinois piled up 200 rushing yards in a loss at Iowa last weekend, using primarily three running backs to do it. The Illini are hoping to ride the run to a win at home against Rutgers this Saturday. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

  • FILE - In this Oct. 7, 2017, file photo, Illinois running back Ra'Von Bonner (21) celebrates after scoring on a two-yard touchdown run during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. Illinois piled up 200 rushing yards in a loss at Iowa last weekend, using primarily three running backs to do it. The Illini are hoping to ride the run to a win at home against Rutgers this Saturday. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

  • 1

    FILE - In this Sept. 2, 2017, file photo, Illinois running back Mike Epstein (26) runs the ball during an NCAA college football game against Ball State at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill. The Illinois offense is ranked last in the Big Ten, but not because of the run game. Illinois piled up 200 rushing yards in a loss at Iowa last weekend, using primarily three running backs to do it. The Illini are hoping to ride the run to a win at home against Rutgers this Saturday. (AP Photo/Bradley Leeb, File)

  • 2

    FILE - In this Oct. 7, 2017, file photo, Illinois running back Reggie Corbin (2) runs from Iowa defensive back Brandon Snyder during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Iowa City, Iowa. Illinois piled up 200 rushing yards in a loss at Iowa last weekend, using primarily three running backs to do it. The Illini are hoping to ride the run to a win at home against Rutgers this Saturday. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois offense is ranked last in the Big Ten. Don't blame the running game.

Even in a 45-16 blowout loss to Iowa last weekend, Illinois rushed for 200 yards at Kinnick Stadium — the second-highest total the Hawkeyes have allowed this season. It was only the second time Illinois has rushed for over 100 yards this season, and it was the first time reaching 200 yards since last year's 24-7 victory over Rutgers — the opponent this Saturday.

Mike Epstein led the Illini with seven carries for 83 yards, including a career-high 58-yard dash in the second quarter. Reggie Corbin also toted the ball seven times for 61 yards, and Ra'Von Bonner chipped in with 49 yards and Illinois' only rushing touchdown.

"You need more than one (running) back," coach Lovie Smith said. "(In) an ideal world, most of the time we're going to play about three. They were all productive."

Epstein's outing was another example of the consistency he has shown all year. He has rushed for four touchdowns, which is ranked seventh among all true freshmen in the FBS. He is also ranked eighth in that group with 69.2 rushing yards per game.

Corbin missed the first three games of the season due to a shoulder injury. In his first game back against Nebraska, he rushed for just nine yards on four carries. But against Iowa, Corbin showed that he has big-play ability with two runs for over 15 yards.

"As you watch his play, of course he can make you miss in the open field as well as any of our running backs," Smith said. "He's quick. . (He's) a different flavor."

Smith acknowledged that Bonner can also make defenders miss, but he can run with more power. Despite not always getting consistent touches, Bonner said he has embraced every opportunity he's been given.

Epstein leads the team with three rushing touchdowns, but Bonner has scored two of his own, including a 2-yard plunge to tie the game early against Iowa. Bonner said the environment in Iowa City, Iowa, was one of the most hostile he has ever played in, but hearing over 70,000 fans go silent after his score was a moment he hopes to relive again.

"It was beautiful," Bonner said. "It's kind of indescribable, for real. You kind of just grow up and you see guys doing that on TV, but when you're doing it, you just see how blessed you are."

Illinois was also able to utilize another running back against the Hawkeyes: Dre Brown, who missed the entire 2015 and 2016 seasons due to torn ACLs in his right and left knees. He made his collegiate debut on special teams.

Smith said it would be difficult to implement another running back into the team's backfield, but added that he will look to find ways to keep Brown involved.

Brown knows he has his work cut out for him when it comes to cracking the depth chart at running back. For now however, he's just happy to have finally began his college football career.

"After all I've been through when I got to (play against Iowa) it was kind of like, 'What do I have to lose?'" Brown said. "A lot of people probably wouldn't think after two ACL tears, four surgeries that I'd even be here."

___

More college football coverage at http://collegefootball.ap.org and www.Twitter.com/AP_Top25

 

Print Article

Read More Sports

State soccer tournaments at a glance

October 19, 2017 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press 5A GIRLS: At this point, they’re used to it. Playing the extra few minutes to get the desired result, Lake City isn’t afraid of those kind of outcomes. They’ve won two state titles on penalty kic...

Comments

Read More

Getting to know: Larissa Bailey

October 19, 2017 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press At first, the game of soccer was something that Larissa Bailey started playing because she enjoyed watching her older sister play the game. A few years later — and with some hard work — Bailey has h...

Comments

Read More

NELKE: No more hoops at Cd’A Charter

October 19, 2017 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press Athletics at Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy is funded differently than at other schools. The school pays coaches salaries and tournament entry fees. Uniforms, equipment and facilities expenses must b...

Comments

Read More

GRIDIRON GUESSES: Post Falls vs. Cd’A has all the makings of a classic

October 19, 2017 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press Of all their 5A Inland Empire League opponents in recent years, the Coeur d’Alene Vikings’ toughest foe has been the Post Falls Trojans. And in most of those years, Post Falls has been a decided und...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(208) 664-8176
215 N. Second St
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho 83814

©2017 The Coeur d'Alene Press Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X