>>Illinois Downs Western Kentucky
Illinois' young defense held Western Kentucky's high-powered attack in check Saturday and freshman running back Mike Epstein rushed for 111 yards on the way to a 20-7 win.
The Illini (2-0) scored their first touchdown of the night on an interception return, and held the Hilltoppers (1-1) to 244 yards of offense. Western Kentucky didn't score until the fourth quarter.
Hilltopper quarterback Mike White averaged 311.6 yards a game last season, but Saturday heavy Illini pressure limited him to 28 of 43 pasing for 238 yards and an interception. He also ran for a score.
Illinois' defense opened the gap on Western Kentucky late in the second quarter with an interception returned for a touchdown.
White, trying to throw form his own end zone, was hit hard by defense end Bobby Roundtree. The ball floated to the 10-yard line where linebacker Julian Jones pulled it down and ran to the end zone untouched. What had been a fragile six-point Illinois edge was suddenly 13-0 just before the half.
Illinois followed that up with a crushing 84-yard drive to open the second half. Quarterback Chayce Crouch capped it with a nine-yard run, finishing with a leap into the end zone for a 20-0 lead.
Illinois kept White under pressure much of the night. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound redshirt senior was sacked twice and hurried four times.
Crouch finished 14 of 25 for 107 yards and an interception for Illinois.
>>Western Illinois Beats Northern Arizona
Sean McGuire threw for one touchdown and ran for another as Western Illinois led all the way to a 38-20 victory over Northern Arizona on Saturday night.
McGuire threw for 210 yards for the Leathernecks (2-0). Max Norris ran for 103 yards and a score. Jaelon Acklin ran for 65 yards and a touchdown and had 101 receiving yards and another score.
Acklin scored on a 63-yard run two plays into the Leathernecks' first drive. Sam Crosa kicked a 27-yard field goal with 9:12 left in the second quarter and Norris scored from the 1 to lift Western Illinois to a 17-7 lead at halftime.
In the third, Eric Carrera recovered a Case Cookus fumble and ran it in for another Leathernecks score to make it 24-7. McGuire hit Acklin for a 38-yard touchdown, stretching it to 31-13 with 5:50 left in the third.
Cookus was 18-of-35 for 221 yards and two touchdowns for the Lumberjacks (0-2).
>>Northern Illinois Rolls Western Illinois
Daniel Santacaterina threw for 252 yards and three touchdowns to lead Northern Illinois to a 38-10 win over Eastern Illinois on Saturday.
Marcus Jones ran in two more scores, both set up by first-half interceptions, as Northern Illinois (1-1) dominated on defense, holding its in-state FCS rival to just 60 yards rushing and 187 overall.
Santacaterina finished 23 of 34 with one interception. He connected with Spencer Tears on a 39-yard touchdown throw for the first points of the game and later found Christian Blake for an 18-yard TD pass and then Shane Wimann on a 1-yard scoring toss.
Eastern Illinois (1-1) got a short field goal from Nick Wilson in the first quarter and a touchdown from Sotty Gilkey Jr. on a 1-yard run midway through the fourth.
Two key Panther drives in the first half were halted by interceptions that the Huskies quickly turned into points. Mycial Allen picked off EIU's Mitch Kimble and returned it 17 yards to the Eastern Illinois 11 at the end of the first and Mykelti Williams intercepted a Kimble pass late in the second, returning it 10 yards to EIU 30.