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Monday, September 12, 2005
Beloit Daily: 2-0 Illini now face tougher challenge
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - The games get tougher from here.
After starting its season with two straight victories for the first time since 2001, Illinois must go on the road to take on No. 16 California - which defeated Washington 56-17 Saturday - next week.
The Illini defeated San JoseState 40-19 Saturday, dominating every phase of the game a week after coming from a 27-7 deficit in a 33-30 overtime win over Rutgers. The improvement from first to second game was obvious, but the Illini still must get better to be able to compete with teams in the Top 25, Coach Ron Zook said. "We've got to continue to improve," he said. "It's going to be very, very important that we have a big week of practice this week and continue to improve the same way."
Cal also is 2-0 and dispatched Washington in its Pac-10 opener on Saturday behind four first-half touchdown passes from quarterback Joe Ayoob, who has taken over for the injured Nate Longshore. The Illini fell behind San Jose 7-0 early, but erased that deficit with touchdowns on their next three possessions in the first quarter. Quarterback Tim Brasic scored from 2 yards out, Pierre Thomas' 2-yard plunge was set up by Remond Willis' interception and 27-yard return, and E.B. Halsey scored around right end from 1 yard out on the last play of the quarter. The Illini led 27-7 at halftime and 40-7 in the fourth quarter before San JoseState scored the last 12 points of the game, thanks to a 96-yard kickoff return and two Jared Strubeck field goals. Jason Reda kicked four field goals for Illinois, the last from a career-best 45 yards.