CHAMPAIGN, IL. — In a back-and-forth offensive affair, Indiana football fell 48-45 in overtime against Illinois on Saturday afternoon in Champaign, Illinois.
With the loss, the Hoosiers are removed from bowl eligibility. In the absence of Illinois sophomore quarterback Luke Altmyer, senior backup John Paddock impressed. Paddock decimated Indiana’s thin secondary, going 24-for-36 with 507 yards and four touchdowns.
Despite Indiana junior receiver Donaven McCulley’s strong outing — he hauled in 11 catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns — the Hoosiers couldn’t make enough stops to pull out the road win.
After a quick three-and-out on its first possession, Illinois drove down the field effectively on its second. Paddock found junior receiver Pat Bryant and freshman running back Kaden Feagin for gains of 33 and 23 yards, respectively.
Indiana’s defense held strong in the red zone, forcing the Illini to settle for a field goal. Senior kicker Caleb Griffin knocked in the 24-yard try to put the hosts up 3-0 with roughly nine minutes to go in the quarter.
Despite another three-and-out for the Hoosiers, a muffed punt from Illinois junior receiver Isaiah Williams set Indiana up at the Illini’s 32-yard line. The Hoosiers worked to the goal line in nine plays, and redshirt sophomore running back Trent Howland capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown.
Illinois immediately responded, as Paddock capitalized on a coverage bust in Indiana’s secondary and connected with Williams for a 67-yard pick up. Junior running back Reggie Love III burst for an eight-yard score on the ensuing play, and the point after was missed, putting the Illini up 9-7 with a little over three minutes left.
The lapses in coverage persisted on both sides. On Indiana’s next drive, redshirt freshman quarterback Brendan Sorsby found McCulley wide open for 41 yards and catapulted the Hoosiers into striking distance.
Indiana worked within Illinois’ 10-yard line, and Sorsby found McCulley for a six-yard score to regain the lead. The Hoosiers’ drive covered seven plays across 74 yards in just under four minutes.
Again, the Illini stormed back, and the chunk completions continued. Paddock connected with Bryant for 28 yards to reach Indiana’s 26-yard line, but the drive ultimately grew stagnant. Griffin’s 27-yard field goal sailed through the uprights, drawing the score to 14-12.
McCulley’s impressive outing didn’t slow down. Sorsby completed a 23-yard pass to McCulley on the first play of the possession, and after again working deep into Illinois’ territory, McCulley hauled in a spectacular six-yard score in the corner of the end zone.
Redshirt junior Chris Freeman missed the extra point attempt, and the Hoosiers took a 21-12 lead. Then, on the second play of Illinois’ drive, Paddock hurled an errant throw that fell into the waiting arms of senior defensive back Louis Moore for an interception.
Indiana took over on its own 48-yard line, and a 27-yard completion to senior receiver E.J. Williams set the Hoosiers up at the Illini’s 18. Sorsby took a designed quarterback run and broke through a few tacklers into the end zone, putting Indiana up 27-12.
While the second quarter was relatively quiet for Illinois, it regained some offensive momentum after Sorsby’s touchdown. Paddock found Bryant for gains of 19 and 38 yards, respectively, before connecting with senior wide receiver Casey Washington for a 20-yard score.
With roughly three minutes left in the half, Indiana failed to score for the first time of the quarter, and junior James Evans punted it away. Paddock continued to pick apart the Hoosiers’ secondary and moved Illinois’ offense methodically down the field.
Washington continued to be Paddock’s favorite target, as he had another pair of catches for 23 and 19 yards. But it was ultimately Bryant who Paddock would find in the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown with 18 seconds left in the half.
Sorsby took a knee to run out the clock into the half, and Indiana headed into the locker room with a 27-26 lead.
Despite working into Illinois’ territory early in the quarter, Sorsby lost a fumble recovered by Illini junior defensive tackle Jer’Zhan Newton. Illinois couldn’t capitalize on the field position, though, and its drive stalled at Indiana’s 39-yard line.
While neither offense could manage much in the ensuing few possessions, Illinois broke through with a little over five minutes remaining in the quarter. Williams burnt Indiana redshirt freshman defensive back Jamari Sharpe on a double-move, and Paddock launched a 42-yard score to put the Illini up 33-27.
After an explosive first half offensively, Indiana continued to struggle toward the end of the third quarter. With a little over three minutes to go, Sorsby was intercepted by Illinois freshman defensive back Mac Resetich along the right sideline.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Love took a handoff to the right side of the Illinois’ offensive line and sprung free for a 37-yard score. The Illini failed a two-point conversion try and took a 39-27 lead.
Aided by an 18-yard run from Howland, Indiana quickly worked deep into Illinois territory. From the Illini’s 5, Sorsby took another quarterback keeper for a touchdown. The Hoosiers’ drive spanned 52 yards in six plays.
With a little over five minutes left in the fourth, Griffin knocked in a 21-yard chip shot to extend Illinois’ lead to 42-34. Despite Indiana failing on fourth down on the Illini 37, the Hoosiers were able to regain possession on their own 15-yard line with 1:37 remaining.
Sorsby found senior receiver DeQuece Carter for 25 yards, then rushed for 13 and ultimately connected with Carter for a 26-yard score on a strike up the middle of the field. Trailing by 2, Sorsby was able to loft a pass to Williams in the back of the end zone on the two-point-conversion try to knot the score at 42.
Indiana started with the ball in overtime, and the offense fell stagnant. The Hoosiers gained just three yards, and Freeman connected on a 41-yard field goal to give Indiana a 45-42 lead.
It only took Illinois three plays to find paydirt, though. On 3rd and 6 from Indiana’s 21-yard line, Paddock found Williams open for a 21-yard score, his second of the afternoon, to give Illinois a walk-off 48-45 victory.