Football
Blue Team Dominates to Win Spring Game, 38-7

 
Aaron Bailey runs away from defenders down the field. (Mark Jones)
Aaron Bailey runs away from defenders down the field. (Mark Jones)
 

April 12, 2014

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Blue team turned two turnovers by the Orange into 14 points and held the Orange to less than 200 yards of offense on the way to a 38-7 win in the 2014 Spring Game on a sun-drenched day. Reilly O'Toole threw for two first-quarter touchdowns and Peter Bonahoom caught a game-high seven passes for 95 yards, but the story of the day was defense for the Blue as they racked up 16 tackles for loss, five sacks and an 89-yard interception return for a touchdown.

"The Orange had some opportunities to move the football but two turnovers changed the football game like this," Illini head coach Tim Beckman said as he snapped his fingers. "The Blue team was able to capitalize on those."

After the Orange closed within one score on Aaron Bailey's two-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter, Zepheniah Grimes intercepted a Wes Lunt pass and the Orange team mounted a drive that went deep into Blue territory. But Chayce Crouch's third-down pass was behind receiver Jeremey Whitlow, who tipped it to V'Angelo Bentley. Bentley gathered it in and sprinted 89 yards untouched down the east sideline for a touchdown that took the wind out of the Orange team's sails and gave the Blue a 21-7 lead. A 34-yard field goal by David Reisner as the first half ended made the lead 24-7.

The Blue team clamped down defensively in the second half, limiting the Orange to just 49 yards of offense and holding them scoreless in the final two quarters. Devin Church capped an eight-play, 80-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter and Kendrick Foster scampered in from a yard out to finish seven-play 65-yard drive in the fourth quarter that pushed the score to 38-7.

O'Toole finished 12-of-17 for 126 yards and two touchdowns on the day, while also rushing seven times for 30 yards despite the rule that quarterbacks were whistled down when they were touched. Foster led the Blue's rushing attack with 31 yards on seven carries. In addition to Bonahoom's solid performance, Justin Hardee had five catches for 81 yards and a touchdown, including a 41-yard bomb from Wes Lunt, who was 6-of-16 for 99 yards on the day.

Defensively for the Blue, Taylor Barton and Davontay Kwaaning each had seven tackles, while all four of Paul James III's tackles were TFLs, including two sacks. He also pounced on Bailey's fumble deep in Orange territory in the first quarter that led to the Blue side's second touchdown. T.J. Neal added six tackles, including two TFLs, while 10 other Blue players had at least a half-TFL on the afternoon.

For the Orange, Bailey was 9-of-13 passing for 43 yards. Josh Ferguson led the ground game with 61 yards on 11 carries (5.5 ypc) and Geronimo Allison had a team-best five catches for 46 yards. Mike Svetina and Ralph Cooper, both on the Orange, each had eight tackles, while Svetina had 1.5 tackles for loss. Kenny Nelson also had a pair of sacks.

"I thought we'd had 14 unbelievable days of practice of the practices we've graded," Beckman said. "And on the 15th, I saw some good things but some things we can continue to improve on. This can push us into the summer, and that can be so, so influential on how your fall goes."

2014 Spring Awards (presented on the field after the game)
Bresee Most Improved Offensive Player: Michael Heitz, Sr., OL
Bresee Most Improved Defensive Player: T.J. Neal, So., LB
Offensive Most Valuable Player: Josh Ferguson, Jr., RB
Defensive Most Valuable Player: Earnest Thomas III, Sr., STAR
Special Teams Most Valuable Player: Ralph Cooper, Sr., LB
Unsung Award: Defense - Zane Petty, Sr., DB // Offense - Alex Hill, Sr., OL
Faculty Award for Exemplary Leadership in Community, Classroom and on Field: Joe Spencer, So., OL
Academic Excellence Award: Leslie Poole, Jr., WR

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