Here’s what you don’t want to hear after falling from 3-0 to 0-3 with no obvious wins in sight – your starting quarterback is lost until next month with a leg fracture. That’s what Illinois is dealing with today.
The Illini announced Sunday afternoon that quarterback Wes Lunt suffered a fractured fibula in the club’s 38-27 home loss to Purdue. The school has set the timeframe for Lunt’s return at four-to-six weeks.
“I’m very disappointed for Wes, his family and the Fighting Illini family, but I know we all will respond to this situation in a positive way,” head coach Tim Beckman said in a statement. “He’s having an outstanding season and we’re very hopeful to have him back on the field for the final three games. We are fortunate to have two bye weeks coming up so the games Wes will have to miss are as limited as possible. We have a lot of confidence in Reilly O’Toole and Aaron Bailey as we prepare for our upcoming game against Wisconsin.”
Lunt was removed Saturday’s loss in the fourth quarter after a sack by Boilermaker defender Ryan Russell. He’d completed 27-of-39 passes for 332 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions to that point. Lunt was replaced by O’Toole, who threw for 114 yards on 8-of-14 passing with one interception over the bulk of the final quarter. Beyond the loss of its starting quarterback, Lunt’s sack thwarted Illinois’ comeback effort. Trailing 38-27 early in the final frame, Illinois went from a 2nd-and-10 at the Purdue 33 with its starting quarterback in the game to dealing with a 3rd-and-21 on the Purdue 44 playing behind its backup quarterback. Not surprisingly, Illinois did not score after Lunt’s departure.
Lunt, a Land of Lincoln native and Oklahoma State transfer, leads the Big Ten in passing yards per game at 313.8. He’s hit 127-of-192 throws for 1,569 yards with 13 touchdowns against three interceptions, by all accounts the saving grace in what could now shape to be Beckman’s final season in Champaign.
Illinois has six games remaining this season, and will be underdogs in all of them. Illinois is 9-21 under third-year coach Beckman, and 1-17 in Big Ten play.
The Fighting Illini visit Wisconsin on Saturday (noon ET, ESPN2).