Illinois Falls To Missouri In Season Opener, 22-15

Jon Beutjer went 31-for-45 for 281 yards and a touchdown against Missouri.
Jon Beutjer went 31-for-45 for 281 yards and a touchdown against Missouri.

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AP Sports Writer

ST. LOUIS - Darius Outlaw caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Brad Smith with 4:12 remaining to give Missouri a 22-15 victory over Illinois in the season opener Saturday.

Missouri got another big game from Smith. He went 12-for-18 for 101 yards and two touchdowns and added 66 yards rushing on 17 carries. In the opener against Illinois last year, Smith had 290 yards total offense in his first career start as a redshirt freshman.

Ibrahim Halsey had 139 yards on 20 carries, a school record for a season opener for Illinois. Jon Beutjer was 31-for-45 for 281 yards and a touchdown.

Illinois outgained Missouri 422-224, but missed a chance to tie it late, running out of downs at the Missouri 23 when Beutjer's pass went in and out of Melvin Bryant's arms at the 5.

The Illini also lost to Missouri 33-20 last year in the neutral-site opener. Both teams were 5-7 last year.

Missouri struggled on offense most of the day. But the Tigers saved their best for late in the game with a 13-play, 79-yard game-winning drive. Smith added a 2-point conversion run from an unusual swinging gate alignment, winning a foot race to the right corner of the end zone.

Smith took the snap from the 8 on the play after a false start.

Smith was 3-for-4 for 40 yards on the winning drive. Outlaw caught two of the passes for 21 yards and Zack Abron caught a 19-yard swing pass and had a 17-yard run.

Missouri, which is 6-1 in its last seven openers, responded after Illinois took its first lead of the game on a 6-yard pass from Beutjer to Kelvin Hayden with 10:36 to go.

Missouri led 14-6 at the half despite getting outgained 167-103 in total yards.

The big play of the half came when Michael Harden nearly blocked a punt deep in Illinois territory, forcing Steve Weatherford to run. Derrick Ming tackled Weatherford at the 3 to set up Abron's 1-yard run for a 7-3 lead.

Smith hit J.D. McCoy for a 14-yard touchdown to make it 14-3, capping Missouri's only sustained drive of the half.

Illinois settled for field goals of 44 and 48 yards by John Gockman in the first half, and Gockman added a 31-yarder in the third quarter.