Week 0 of the college football season finally came to us this weekend. With only a handful of teams playing, we got a chance to see some teams that normally don’t get the spotlight on college gameday. One of those games involved the Wyoming Cowboys heading to Illinois to take on Bret Bielema and the Fighting Illini. Wyoming vs Illinois ended up being a surprisingly entertaining game.
In Bielema’s first season as head coach of the Illini, they just missed being bowl eligible going 5-7. The season included another week 0 game, where they got the win against Nebraska before going on a 4-game losing streak. They finished the season with wins every other week, including a nine-overtime win against, at the time, #7 ranked Penn State 20-18.
On the other side, Wyoming started off hot, winning their first four games of the season before losing four straight. They finished the regular season 6-6, earning themselves a bid in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against the Kent State Golden Flashes. They would go on to beat Kent State 52-38, making it their 9th bowl win in school history.
The week 0 matchup between the two schools featured two quarterbacks who are brand new to their schools. Tommy DeVito made his first start for the Illini after spending the last four seasons in Syracuse with the Orange, while Andrew Peasley joins the Cowboys after coming over from Utah State. Both quarterbacks join run heavy offenses, and it was shown in this week 0 matchup.
Wyoming vs Illinois: First Half
Wyoming vs Illinois started off with a bang, as Peyton Vining took the opening kickoff 43 yards. The next two plays completed the quick opening drive as Chase Brown picked up 38 yards on the ground, and Illinois finished off the drive with a 14 yard touchdown score off of a perfect touch pass from Tommy DeVito.
After Wyoming’s first two drives and Illinois second drive went no where, the Illini put together a 12-play, 47 yard drive that ended in a missed 41-yard field goal by Caleb Griffin. Late in the first quarter, Wyoming cut into the 7-0 lead with a 22-yard field goal by John Hoyland.
The second quarter started to take a turn for Wyoming, as the Illini extended their lead with another touchdown from Chase Brown, this time on an 11-yard rushing touchdown run. The next drive, Andrew Peasley was intercepted by junior cornerback Devon Witherspoon, giving the Illini great field position.
The great field position ended in a 26-yard field goal by Griffin. After another punt by Wyoming, Illinois tried to add to the lead with 51-yard field goal, but Griffin ended up missing wide right. The first half ended with Illinois leading 17-3, after a big first half from Chase Brown.
Wyoming vs Illinois: Second Half
Wyoming came out of the halftime break with a 7-play, 47 yard drive bolstered by a couple of big runs from Titus Swen. It ended in a 46-yard field goal from Hoyland.
It seemed that the Cowboys could still come away with the win until Illinois put together an 11-play, 78 yard drive capped off by a 6-yard touchdown catch by Pat Bryant. The Cowboys final drive of the third quarter ended on a failed fourth down attempt.
The final quarter was not pretty for Wyoming as the Illini added to their lead. It started with another Chase Brown touchdown, this time a 5-yard rush to the left side. That finished off a 5-play, 44 yard drive. After a punt from both teams, the Illini struck again with a 7-play, 70 yard drive.
Reggie Love III kept with the play as he ran it in for a 33-yard touchdown. It was an interesting play, as Love looked like he got tackled at the 21-yard line. After taking a longer look, you can see Love lands on top of the defender and never hits the ground. This would make the game 38-6.
Wyoming couldn’t wait for this game to end, as they couldn’t get anything going on offense. An impressive defensive performance from Bret Bielema’s group topped with a fantastic ground attack gives the Illini their first win of the season.
It’s not an understatement to say that Chase Brown was a man amongst boys in this game. He finished the game with 19 rushes for 151 yards, and two touchdowns on the ground, adding 16 yards on three receptions and another score.
Brown showed off his quickness and ability to cut on a dime, making defenders look silly multiple times. It seems that Brown saw Wyoming vs Illinois and circled it on the schedule. This performance puts Brown on the map to be a player to watch throughout the season.
The entire Illini defense
It wouldn’t be fair to talk about one defensive player after this performance. Bret Bielema had this defense on a mission. It’s almost a guarantee to win when your defense gives up only six points. It’s even easier when they don’t give up a 3rd or 4th down conversion until the 4th quarter.
Defensive backs Devon Witherspoon and Sydney Brown helped force Andrew Peasley to go 5/20 for 30 yards and an interception. They will have a tough time topping this performance next week against Indiana.
One of the only bright spots for Wyoming in this game, Titus Swen ran well. He finished the game with 17 rushes for 97 yards, an average of 5.7 yards per carry. Swen showed he is willing to fight for every yard, as he broke many Illini tacklers. Even when they would get a hold of him, you could see the struggle to bring Swen to the ground. The junior from Texas will be a player to watch on the Cowboys this season.