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Wednesday, June 19
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

Chappell impressive in 27-14 Illinois win

IU-Illinois Football

As IU junior quarterback Ben Chappell ran off the field following the Hoosiers’ 27-14 win against Illinois on Saturday, a look crossed his face that fans hadn’t seen in the past three weeks.

It was a look of happiness, confidence and, most importantly, relief.

“It was fun,” Chappell said. “The offensive line played great, we were able to run the ball and the wide receivers made great catches. We have to come out every week and have that intensity.”

After lopsided losses to Ohio State and Virginia, Chappell went into his matchup against the Fighting Illini  with something to prove.

He did just that.  

Chappell finished 23-38 with 333 yards, three touchdowns – both career highs – and zero turnovers. His poise in the pocket enabled him to complete at least two passes each to five different receivers. 

Sophomore wide receivers Tandon Doss and Damarlo Belcher each caught a touchdown pass and finished with 130 and 91 yards, respectively. Junior wide receiver and wildcat quarterback Mitchell Evans led the ground attack with 84 yards rushing. 

Chappell’s performance against Illinois was the most complete of his career and answered any critics that may have questioned his ability as a Big Ten quarterback.
IU coach Bill Lynch said a game of this quality was due for Chappell.

“You cannot explain all that Ben Chappell does for our football team,” Lynch said. “Obviously the offense specifically, in terms of making sure everyone is on the same page and the preparation through the week. Any success he gets is like Jammie (Kirlew). They deserve it because they work for it.”

Chappell began the game with two key drives down the field, though both ended in missed field goals by freshman kicker Nick Freeland.

But in the second quarter, IU made it count.

On the first drive of the period, Chappell led the Hoosiers downfield to the Illinois 18-yard line before settling for a successful field goal attempt by Freeland to provide a 3-0 lead.

Down 7-3 after an Illinois touchdown pass from quarterback Juice Williams to wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, IU responded with a score of its own.

Chappell completed five passes for 51 yards, moving the Hoosiers to the Fighting Illini’s 29-yard line before hitting Belcher on the far right side. Belcher eluded an Illinois cornerback and ran into the end zone with less than a minute remaining in the half, giving IU the 10-7 lead.

“That was just a great play by him,” Chappell said. “I overthrew him on the first drive and missed him another time. He just kept playing and made a great play.”

A tough defensive stance by IU gave the ball back to the offense only 23 seconds later, resulting in another Freeland field goal.

After a scoreless third quarter, Chappell put the game out of reach for the Illini with two touchdown drives to begin the fourth quarter.

On the ensuing IU drive, three rushes by freshman running back Darius Willis for 12 yards set up a 44-yard strike from Chappell to Doss into the end zone.

Just minutes later – after IU freshman defensive tackle Larry Black recovered a fumble – Chappell found senior tight end Troy Wagner in the end zone from 13 yards out to give the Hoosiers a 27-7 lead and, eventually, the win.

Belcher said spreading the ball around to a variety of receivers was crucial Saturday.

“It makes the defense struggle a little bit,” Belcher said. “If everybody touches the ball and the running backs run the ball, we will be a hard offense to stop. We came out here and did what we needed to do and got the win.”

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