As 4-5 Illinois looks to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2011, the triggerman of the Illini’s once-potent offense is back.
In early October, Wes Lunt sustained a fractured fibula in his left leg and was expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Coming up on the outside end of that prognosis, Lunt is indeed set to return as the former Oklahoma State quarterback, barring an unexpected development, will start in Saturday’s game against Iowa.
One group in particular will likely be excited over the return of Lunt.
“The guy’s got a really good arm and he’s really accurate,” offensive coordinator Bill Cubit said. “If I’m a wide receiver, I’m going to feel a little bit better.”
In Lunt’s five starts — he sat out the Sept. 27 Nebraska game with a different leg injury — the Illini have gone 3-2. In the four games he missed, they’re 1-3.
As noted by the football program in its notes package for the Iowa game, Lunt was on his way to a quite prolific season before being sidelined.
At the time of his injury, Lunt ranked in the top 20 in the nation in completions per game (25.4, 10th), passing yards per game (313.8, 14th), passing touchdowns (13,17th), passing yards (1,569, 18th), completion percentage (66.5, 20th) and passing efficiency (154.8, 20th), and was tied for fourth in FBS with 14 passing plays of 30+ yards.
Lunt also tossed 13 touchdown passes in his five games and just three interceptions in 191 attempts. His two replacements, Reilly O’Toole and Aaron Bailey, have thrown five touchdowns and seven interceptions in 130 attempts.
With Lunt, the Illini averaged 30.4 points per game. Without him, it dipped to 21 ppg.