WMU (1-2) appeared primed for the road upset when QB Ryan Cubit connected with WR Greg Jennings from three yards out to give the Broncos their only lead, 27-23, with 6:56 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Cubit was solid in his first start, completing 27-of-41 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns. His other TD strike was to redshirt freshman Brian Jackson, an eight-yarder that tied the contest at 20-20 in the third quarter.
The Brown & Gold found themselves in a hole early when Pierre Thomas took the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. The Broncos, however, responded defensively when true freshman SS Scooter McIntosh picked off a Brad Bower pass. Six plays later, Trovon Riley scored from a yard out to knot the contest, 7-7.
The see-saw battle saw a total of five lead changes. The Illini went up 14-7 late in the first quarter on Halsey's first TD of the day, a three-yard run. WMU answered with a pair of field goals, the first an impressive 50-yarder from Nate Meyer -- the sixth-longest in school history and the first of his collegiate career. Robert Menchinger followed with a 22-yarder to pull WMU to within a point at 14-13.
Illinois (2-1) took a 20-13 lead into the locker room on Bower's 28-yard toss to Kendrick Jones in the back of the end zone.
"The reality is that we were one mistake shy," said Gary Darnell. "I couldn't tell you which one because throughout the game there were so many. Illinois cashed in on all the things they were supposed to, and they came up with the big play at the time when they really needed something."
Western Michigan opens Mid-American Conference action next Saturday (Sept. 25), traveling to Ball State for an 8:00 p.m. ET kickoff.
NOTES: WMU finished with a 406-353 advantage in offensive yards … true freshman RB Mark Bonds averaged 5.5 yards per carry, amassing 71 yards on 13 attempts … starting linebackers Paul Tithof and Mike Giorgianni led the Broncos with 10 tackles each … WMU suffered its eighth-straight non-conference road loss.
Heartbreak in Champaign
Broncos Illustrated Top Stories
Fantasy Football: Top 5 Redraft RookiesWho doesn't love drafting a rookie or two for their Fantasy Football team? That's why we're providing an early analysis of the top-five incoming rookies and their potential roles…
QB Bryant Focused on Moving ForwardFollowing a well-noted split with Wisconsin, 2018 LaGrange (IL) Lyons Township QB Ben Bryant doesn't want to dwell upon the past and has his focus on moving forward in his…
Illini InquirerYesterday at 3:09 PM
Dynasty Football CentralThis is where you can find ALL of Scout Fantasy's Dynasty Football content in one simple archive.
Scout FantasyFriday at 2:25 PM
Under Armour N.J.: Offensive PreviewA look at the top offensive prospects scheduled to attend Sunday's Under Armour combine at Montvale (N.J.) St. Joseph.
Scout FootballFriday at 9:03 AM