Turnovers doom Kent State, as starting quarterback Colin Reardon throws three first quarter interceptions to help the Illinois Fighting Illini score 28 first quarter points and roll to 52-3 season-opening victory.
Illinois' defense came ready to play. The Illini stopped Kent State to a three-and-out on the first drive of the game, followed four plays later by a two yard touchdown pass from Wes Lunt to Geronimo Allison to put Illinois up 7-0. Kent State quarterback Colin Reardon would throw his first interception on the Golden Flashes' next drive. One play later, Lunt found Marchie Murdock for a 34-yard touchdown pass and Illinois was up 14-0.
After that, Kent State's defense made their stop of the game, but Ernest Calhoun muffed the punt and gave the Fighting Illini the ball back at the Kent State 28. Four plays later, the Illini were back in the end zone. For one drive in the second quarter, Reardon was replaced by George Bollas, after the starting quarterback began 2-for-7 for three yards and three picks.
Illinois would add two more first quarter touchdowns before their rapid scoring pace began to slow down. Illinois added ten more points before the Flashes would get their best scoring opportunity with less than a minute left in the second quarter.
Reardon would hit Kris White to set up a 1st and 10 at the Illinois 12. Trayion Durham would set up a 1st and Goal at the one yard-line, only to see Kent State get stopped on three straight downs. The 23-yard field goal by Shane Hynes was blocked, and the score remained 38-0 Illinois going into the halftime break.
Illinois would add a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half, and that would be it for the scoring until the fourth quarter, when Kent State added a garbage time score on a 45-yard field goal by Hynes with 8:30 left in the game. One more late touchdown by Illinois put the over the half-century mark. Multiple early turnovers caused almost all of Kent State's problems, as the Fighting Illini failed to reach 350 total yards of offense. Illinois also had three one-play touchdown drives, all right after Kent State turnovers.
In the first quarter, the Golden Flashes ran just 13 plays for an abysmal -13 yards of total offense. By comparison, the Illini ran 18 plays for 124 yards and four touchdowns.
The two times Kent State found the end zone, it was called back due to penalties. The first time, Durham's one yard touchdown run was called back due to a false start, and the second time around, Bollas' passing touchdown with 1:05 left in the game was called back due to illegal formation.
Durham and Miles Hibbler would split carries throughout the game, with neither of them fully emerging as the number one at halfback by the time this one was over.
Reardon improved as the game went on, but finished 15 for-34 for 156 yards with three interceptions.
This was the first ever match-up between the Illini and Kent State. Next week, the Golden Flashes go home to host Delaware State, while Illinois hosts the Leathernecks of Western Illinois.