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Illinois visits Kansas for first meeting since 1968

Sep 2, 2023; Champaign, Illinois, USA;  Illinois Fighting Illini quarterback Luke Altmyer (9) puts a hand to the helmet of Toledo Rockets linebacker CJ Wilson Jr. (33) on a run during the first half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback Luke Altmyer saved Illinois from a deflating first-week loss to Toledo, engineering a late drive that set up a 29-yard field goal by Caleb Griffin for a 30-28 win on Saturday.

Altmyer and the Fighting Illini try to make it 2-0 on Friday night when they travel to Lawrence, Kan., for their first meeting with Kansas since 1968.

The Ole Miss transfer made his debut with Illinois one to remember. He completed 18 of 26 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns while running for a team-high 69 yards on nine carries. His 33-yard pass to Casey Washington on fourth down keyed the 64-yard drive that turned defeat into victory.

“His presence, his calmness, his demeanor was very impressive,” Illinois coach Bret Bielema said. “I thought he had great poise and great confidence.”

Less impressive was a defense that did most of the heavy lifting last year when the Illini contended for the Big Ten West title. Toledo rolled up 27 first downs and 416 total yards, creating a time of possession advantage of nearly six minutes.

Illinois will have to defend much better against a 1-0 Jayhawks team that hopes to have its leader, quarterback Jalon Daniels, back after he was sidelined by a back injury for Friday’s 48-17 rout of FCS opponent Missouri State.

Daniels wasn’t needed in the season opener, not with backup Jason Bean carving up the Bears for 276 yards and two touchdowns on 22-of-28 passing.

“He continues to get better,” Kansas coach Lance Leipold said of Bean. “He’s done everything we’ve asked. You’ve seen him get more mature and more confident.”

The final score aside, the Jayhawks had to work for most of their first game. Missouri State led 10-7 at one point and was still within 27-17 after scoring on the first play of the fourth quarter, even though Kansas outgained the Bears 521-217.

The Illini own a 3-2 lead in the all-time series with the Jayhawks. Friday night’s matchup will be their first in Lawrence since 1892.

–Field Level Media