Heartbreak in Champaign

CHAMPAIGN (Sept. 18) – E.B. Halsey's four-yard plunge with 1:02 left on the clock proved to be the difference as Illinois edged Western Michigan, 30-27, in a thriller at Memorial Stadium.

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.

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