Chase Brown rushed for 257 yards and two touchdowns and Illinois beat Charlotte 24-14 on Saturday.
It stands as the fourth best single-game rushing performance in Illinois history. His 80-yard scoring run as time expired in the third quarter was the longest run of the year for Illinois (2-4). The last Illini to rush for more than 200 yards in a game was Reggie Corbin, who ran for 213 yards against Minnesota in 2018.
“You really saw the skill set Chase Brown has,” Illinois coach Bret Bielema said. “He's something.”
Brandon Peters was 10 of 19 passing for 78 yards and one touchdown for the Illini. Josh McCray rushed 16 times for 64 yards. Daniel Barker caught one pass for 10 yards and a touchdown.
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“For Brandon, I think we can say it was a step forward for him,” Bielema said. “Overall, it was a step forward for the whole team. But we have to play Big Ten football and we're not there yet.”
Chris Reynolds was 17 of 23 passing for 191 yards and two touchdowns for Charlotte (3-2).
Calvin Camp rushed seven times for 29 yards for the 49ers. Victor Tucker caught five passes for 55 yards and a touchdown, and Grant DuBose caught four passes for 70 yards. Elijah Spencer caught two passes for 34 yards and a touchdown.
“I'm disappointed," Charlotte coach Will Healy said. "Call me crazy, but I fully expected to win the game when we came in today. I believe we had plenty of opportunities to do it, and we didn’t get it done.”
Illinois outgained Charlotte on the ground 336 yards to 72.
Bielema was known for nurturing a hard-nosed running attack during his successful tenure at Wisconsin, and Saturday's game was the first indication of that at Illinois.
“I mean, we have some things to clean up,” Bielema said. “But overall, I thought it was encouraging."
Illinois’ two touchdowns in the second half both were on Brown runs, a 32-yard score midway through the third quarter and his 80-yard scamper as time expired in the third quarter.
Illinois scored first on a 29-yard James McCourt field goal midway through the first quarter after a 17-play opening drive for the Illini. Charlotte answered with a 22-yard touchdown pass from Reynolds to Tucker with 1:31 left in the first quarter.
Illinois scored late in the second quarter with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Peters to Barker to make the score 10-7 Illinois.
Charlotte then drove 66 yards on 6 plays and scored on a 22-yard pass from Reynolds to Spencer to lead 14-10 at the half.
Coming into the game, Reynolds had thrown for nine touchdowns, 16th most in the nation.
“We have a long season ahead of us," Reynolds said. "You can’t let something like this hurt you for the rest of the year. We have a lot of opportunities in front of us.”
HE SAID IT
Coach Bielema: “I told the guys in the locker room to enjoy the moment, hug your mom and all that stuff, and then let's get busy because we have to win some Big Ten games now.”
Illinois needed a win after a fairly disastrous start to the season. And while it was against a program that didn’t even play football before 2013, Bielema will take it.
Charlotte played with poise against its first ever Big Ten opponent and coach Healy has to be proud of his squad for its balanced play .
Charlotte: At FIU on Friday night.
Illinois: Hosts conference rival Wisconsin on Oct. 9.