Eastern Michigan defeated an opponent from the Big Ten conference for the third consecutive season. They defeated Rutgers in 2017 and Purdue in 2018.
The Eagles upset the previously unbeaten Illinois Fighting Illini on Saturday by a final score of 34-31. Sophomore kicker Chad Ryland made a 24-yard field goal as time expired to seal the Eastern Michigan victory. Ryland converted on both of his field goal attempts, including a career-high of 52 yards. He also connected on all but one of his extra-point tries.
Mike Glass III tossed for 316 yards and three touchdown passes, two of which had Arthur Jackson III on the receiving end. Jackson led all Eagles receivers with 80 yards on just three receptions. Glass spread the ball around to eight different targets, none of which had more than five receptions. Reggie Corbin was a major catalyst for the Illini rushing offense, gaining 144 of the total 167 yards and contributing one of the two scores. Ra'Voon Bonner pounded in the other Illinois rushing touchdown.
"I think Mike Glass III is very consistent on his throwing ability, him knowing his receivers and working with them makes the passing game more efficient. He's a great player and he has an amazing future ahead of him," said Eastern Michigan defensive back commit David Carter Jr. "On the defensive side, everyone is doing their job and when everyone is doing their job, it causes them to make big plays and big stops."
Illinois QB Brandon Peters captained the Illini passing game and completed 22 passes for 297 yards and a pair of scores. Peters had two weapons with over 90 yards receiving: Josh Imatorbhebhe and Daniel Barker. Imatorbhebhe and Ricky Smalling were on the receiving end of touchdown balls from Peters. Smalling led the team with five receptions.
The Eagles rushing game featured a variety of different backs with three players rushing for more than 10 carries. Breck Turner, Willie Parker and Glass combined for 31 of the 40 total carries and 86 of the 140 total rushing yards. Jairus Grissom also chipped in three carries for 52 yards, including a 47-yard burst in the first half.
Defensively, the Eagles forced a turnover for the third consecutive game. Defensive back Korey Hernandez intercepted Peters inside Illini territory in the later minutes of the third quarter. After allowing three separate scores in the first 13 minutes, the Eagles were able to hold Illinois off the scoreboard until 3:34 was remaining in the contest.
Peters led a valiant comeback charge in the final minutes of the fourth quarter including a 32-yard strike to Imatorbhebhe on fourth and 10 from inside his own 10-yard line. Peters would lead the Fighting Illini back from a 14-point deficit, leaving the game tied with 1:44 left on the clock for Glass and the Eagles offense.
In just four plays, Glass led the Eagles into the red zone, to the Illini 17-yard line. Jackson and Bryson Cannon each caught a pass from Glass on the drive. Dylan Drummond hauled in two passes of his own. After two short runs and timeouts, head coach Chris Creighton of Eastern Michigan trotted place kicker Ryland onto the field. After Illinois coach Lovie Smith attempted to ice him twice, Ryland put the ball through the uprights, leaving the Illini faithful in a state of shock.
"Awesome day for our program. Great environment. We felt as though we grew in our identity last week, but Kentucky was just very good. We practiced really hard and we prepared well," said Eastern Michigan head coach Chris Creighton. "Our guys believe and that's something that is really deep and really powerful. And then you have to go execute. We think that's a really good offense and our defense played really well. Offensive staff put together a great plan and they executed it. I love this team and today is a great day for Eastern Michigan."
After three consecutive road games, the Eagles now travel back home to Ypsilanti to open up the home portion of their schedule against Central Connecticut State at Rynearson Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 21. Illinois stays home next weekend as they begin Big Ten play against Nebraska. The Eagles begin conference play on Oct. 5.