CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — — Chase Brown became the first Illinois runner to run for more than 100 yards in five consecutive games, Tommy DeVito had 329 yards and three touchdowns, and Fighting Illini defeated Chattanooga 31-0 on Thursday night.
Illinois advanced 3-1 and had its best start since 2015.
“I think we’re just starting to understand who we are,” said Illinois coach Bret Bielema. “I really like the way this band works.”
Brown made a five-game, 64-yard scoring drive with a 9-yard field goal after the defense forced Chattanooga (3-1) to take a three-pointer on his first drive.
He finished with 108 rushing yards in 20 carries and is currently leading all FBS rushers with 604 yards over four games.
The closest the Mocs came to scoring came in the early second quarter when they went to the Illinois 16-yard line. Jartavius Martin selected the Preston Hutchinson pass in the end zone to end the Mocs threat and take a 10-0 lead.
“You can’t do that, I don’t care who you play against,” said Chattanooga coach Rusty Wright. “You have to throw the ball, Second and 10, right there and we’re going to play. That pissed me off, I won’t lie.”
Illini scored his first goal since his 2015 win over Western Illinois.
“The sky is the limit for this defense, my friend,” Martin said.
“Coach (Ryan) Walters came along and set a great standard for our defense,” he added. “We believed in us as one, we believe in him, and we know he will get us to the right (playing) task.”
Chattanooga went just 4 out of 14 on the third innings, gaining a total of 142 yards. Illinois charged for 502 yards.
Hutchinson was sacked four times and completed just 6 of 18 passes for 49 yards with two interceptions.
Illinois nearly quadrupled Chattanooga’s total half-time from 332 to 84 yards, leading 24-0 at halftime.
“I love blocking for Chase Brown,” said Illinois-based Alex Pihlstrom. “I know he can make a cut at any time and he can score at any time.”
Thursday night saw the first time in Illinois football history that two receivers had counted more than 100 welcome yards and ran for more than 100 yards with a run back in the same game. Pat Bryant caught six passes and one touchdown for 112 yards, while Isaiah Williams scored nine passes for 103 yards and scored one.
Williams’s 63-yard touchdown from a screen pass made it 31-0 with 4:56 with third quarter left.
DeVito became the first Illinois quarterback to pass more than 300 yards in a game since Brandon Peters threw for 369 yards at Michigan State in 2019.
Ailym Ford slammed 39 and 32-yard runs for Mocs’ biggest wins of the night. He finished with 93 yards in 17 carries.
Andrew Southard missed a 43-yard field goal early in the third quarter after Ford’s 32-yard run took Mocs into Illini territory.
“We’ve been beaten tonight. We’re a beaten team right now. We’re going to need these extra few days. Love this football team. I think we have a chance to be a good football team,” Wright said.
Caleb Griffin took a 34-yard field goal to give Illinois a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.
Illinois: Illini prepared well for a better-than-usual FCS opponent and accordingly had the edge to establish themselves in a good position to make a bowl appearance with two-thirds of the schedule left. Illinois is a step or two away from competing in a wide Big Ten West, thanks to star defense and a much better passing attack made by new offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr.
Chattanooga: The Mocs can attribute this to a skill gap and a short rest after getting off to a strong start in their campaign. Rusty Wright’s group may be in the mix for the Southern Conference championship in November.
Chattanooga: The Mocs are visiting East Tennessee State on October 1.
Illinois: Bielema returns to his old stamping grounds while Illini plays in Wisconsin on October 1.