Illini Drop to 1-2

Two long second-half touchdown passes weren't enough as Illinois fell to 1-2 on the season with a 31-21 setback against Syracuse Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.

Freshman quarterback Juice Williams threw touchdown passes of 76 yards to Rashard Mendenhall and 69 yards to Kyle Hudson and finished 9-of-16 for 227 yards after replacing starter Tim Brasic early in the third quarter. Brasic scored Illinois' first touchdown on a 5-yard run after a 15-play, 80-yard drive in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, Syracuse receiver Taj Smith made his first career start a memorable one with two touchdowns and the Orange ended an 11-game losing streak.

Smith scored Syracuse's first touchdown on a 41-yard fumble return and scored on a 65-yard reception. The Orange (1-2), who led 31-7 in the third quarter, won for the first time since beating Buffalo 31-0 in the second game of last season.

Linebacker Jerry Mackey ran an Illinois fumble 15 yards for a score and Perry Patterson threw TD passes to Smith and to Tom Ferron - a 16-yarder - as the Orange became the second Big East team to drop Illinois in as many weeks. The Illini lost at Rutgers, 33-0, on Sept. 9.

Illinois had two turnovers and was flagged for penalties 12 times for 106 yards, including three that stopped a second-quarter drive. After moving 50 yards to the Syracuse 30, the Illini were flagged for an illegal block, holding and a personal foul that left them facing third-and-30. Tim Brasic threw downfield, but A.J. Brown intercepted at the 17.

Patrick Schadel added a 36-yard field goal for the Orange, who put together their best offensive performance of the season with 369 yards. Patterson finished 9-of-18 for 167 yards, Curtis Brinkley carried 18 times for 69 yards and Delone Carter had 19 carries for 63 yards.

Brasic completed 8-of-16 passes for 61 yards and rushed for 38 more. Mendenhall carried five times for 32 yards and had two catches for 78 as the Illini put up 398 yards of offense.

Smith, who caught five passes for 106 yards, scored the Orange's first touchdown on a freakish fumble recovery.

On third-and-5 at the Illini 48, Patterson dropped back to pass but was forced to scramble. Illini safety Kevin Mitchell hit him at the 43 where the ball popped out, and Smith picked it up at the 41 and ran untouched to the end zone.

The Illini tied it 7-7 five minutes later when Brasic scored to cap a drive aided by a facemask penalty that gave Illinois a first down at the Syracuse 5.

But the Orange wiped out the Illini momentum on the next possession when Patterson found Smith streaking along the Illinois sidelines and hit him with a 65-yard strike.

Story provided by the U of I SID office, will now have Ron Zook's press conference or player updates.

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