CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Illinois rolled over Akron 42-3 on Saturday while showcasing a new quarterback and a reinvigorated defense in a season opener.
Illini quarterback Brandon Peters, a graduate transfer from Michigan, went 14 of 23 for 163 yards and three touchdowns through the air, while running for another touchdown. Peters rushed six times for 36 yards.
Akron quarterback Kato Nelson was 10 of 24 with an interception for a Zips offense that struggled from the opening play.
Reggie Corbin and RaVon Bonner also rushed for touchdowns for the Illini.
Akron was led by Deltron Sands, who rushed 13 times for 39 yards. Brandon Lee carried nine times for 30 yards.
The Illini put up an impressive 401 yards of total offense, including 207 on the ground and 194 passing, while holding Akron to a total of 192 yards.
The Zips managed only 64 yards rushing against a stifling Illinois defense led by linebacker Jake Hansen, who had seven tackles and an interception.
Akron: The Zips were outclassed and outgunned, putting up a dismal 128 yards passing into a swarming Illinois secondary.
Illinois: With head coach Lovie Smith taking over defensive coordinator duties after Hardy Nickerson left last October, all eyes were on the Illinois defense. It didn't disappoint.
The Illinois running game, always a strength behind Corbin and Mike Epstein, got a significant boost from an unlikely source. Peters, at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, showed surprising mobility and a tendency to choose his run opportunities well.
Akron: Hosts UAB next Saturday.
Illinois: Travels to UConn next Saturday.