Head coach Lovie Smith’s first season as the head coach of the Illinois Fighting Illini continues to be a struggle as the 1-3 Illini have lost their starting quarterback in the first half against Purdue. Wes Lunt was forced out of the game with a leg injury in the early stages of Saturday’s game as he will not return.
Lunt made his way to the locker room with a noticeable limp alongside a trainer holding his helmet. The injury then forced backup Chayce Crouch into action with Lunt unavailable for Illinois.
Crouch rushed for a 26-yard touchdown in the first half and has remained in the game at the start of the third quarter as Lunt will not return. This has become a significant factor in a game that is a must-win for Illinois if they want to have any hope of bowl eligibility in Smith’s first season in charge.
Crouch threw just one pass in the first half, which was an incompletion, but did make several plays with his legs en route to 83 rushing yards and the one touchdown. Those type of plays will need to continue in the second half if Illinois wants to come back from a 21-16 halftime deficit as the Illini’s hopes now fall on Crouch’s shoulders. The added element of a more mobile quarterback will be an intriguing storyline to watch for the rest of the game as Purdue will need to contend with Crouch’s ability to scramble even if he is more limited as a passer compared to Lunt.