CHAMPAIGN – The University of Illinois men’s football team is bowl eligible after a six-year drought which was ignited after the school’s largest comeback in program history.
The last second win against Michigan State left everyone at Spartan Stadium speechless after the Illini did the impossible; coming back and winning the game on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Peters to Daniel Barker with five seconds left on the clock.
This completed a 25-point comeback for the men in orange. According to espn.com, the Illini had never completed a comeback form more than 20 points behind.
“They don’t crown champions after one half of ball,” said head coach Lovie Smith.
The Illini have not had a winning season since 2011.
“I would say Saturday is about as rewarding a time as I’ve had coaching, for so many reasons,” Smith said. “To see what this team has done in coming back. This group has done everything we’ve asked. The players deserve this.”
They started their season out 2-3, and with yet another disappointing start it seemed to be just another mediocre football season. However, their homecoming game against 6th ranked Wisconsin was the turnaround they needed. They beat Wisconsin within the last seconds of the game on a field goal that gave them the win 24-23. At this point, their season still had some hope and the light was seemingly still at the end of the tunnel.
Since the Wisconsin game, the Illini have gone on a four-game win-streak. They are currently sitting at a 6-4 record and hope to maintain this success.
Now, the only opponents standing in their way are Iowa and Northwestern. Depending on how they fare against these two schools, will determine what bowl game they play in.
The fighting Illini take on the 19th ranked Hawkeyes this Saturday in Iowa City.