CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — It took a while but new quarterback Wes Lunt delivered a come-from-behind 28-17 win Saturday for Illinois over Youngstown State in a season opener.
Lunt threw three late touchdowns for Illinois. The second was a 15-yarder to running back Josh Ferguson that put Illinois up for good 21-17.
Lunt finished the day 24 of 38 for 285 yards and four touchdowns. He used nine different receivers.
Lunt's highly anticipated debut after his transfer from Oklahoma State started slowly. The Illini had seven first downs by halftime and clung to a 7-6 lead.
The Penguins took a 17-14 lead with 10:57 left in the game on a 2-yard Brian Ruiz touchdown and a 2-point conversion by quarterback Dante Nania.
Ruiz finished with 32 carries for 116 yards and one touchdown. Nania was 11 of 24 for 177 yards.
The game was hardly what Illinois wanted from its opener and the only FCS team on its schedule.
The Illini defensive line struggled to control the line of scrimmage. The inexperienced group of receivers Lunt will rely on was tightly covered for much of the game. Illinois fumbled the ball three times, losing one. And then there were the penalties, seven of them for 55 yards.
And Lunt, who hadn't played a football game for more than a season, was occasionally rusty.
But Illinois' late salvation came on Lunt's arm and two of those touchdowns.
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