COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND — Illinois head coach Bret Bielema believed his team would finally show the firm that made it one of the toughest outs in the Big Ten in 2022, even when the first half of the season continued to prove anything but that to be true. Belief should abound with the Fighting Illini after today’s performance, holding one of the more powerful offense in the league in check long enough to steal a much-needed victory at the death.
Caleb Griffin converted a 43-yard field goal as time expired to lift Illinois to a 27-24 upset victory over Maryland inside of SECU Stadium late Saturday evening. Freshman running back Kaedin Faegan had 84 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, while quarterback Luke Altmayer threw for two touchdowns as the Illini won its first conference game after an 0-3 start to Big Ten play.
Last year’s 8-5 Illini team, one that was a game away from participating in the Big Ten Championship Game, allowed just 168 points (12.8 points per game) in 13 games and less than 300 yards per outing to their opponents, yet had already allowed 173 points in just six contests going into Saturday. Though it allowed 380 total yards to the Terrapins offense, the Illinois defense held Maryland to its second-lowest scoring output of the season while limiting the Terrapins to just 10 points in the second half.
“I’m super excited for our guys. They have been through a lot, but they have stuck together,” Illinois head coach Bret Bielema said. “They have practiced extremely hard. As crazy as it is, I told them during the course of the week, ‘Everybody is telling you why you can’t. I want to tell you why you can.'”
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Saturday afternoon’s contest, with all photos taken by DC-area photographer Rodney Pierce. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 38 pictures in total.