Lovie Smith has made no secret that Illinois’ defense was the strength of the team.
On Saturday, the Illini proved him right, rolling up six sacks and pulling in a pair of decisive early interceptions in a 52-3 win over Murray State.
Quarterback KD Humphries threw the two interceptions on the Racers’ first two drives, and both led to Wes Lunt touchdown passes and an early 14-0 Illini (1-0) lead.
Illinois crushed the Racers’ run game, limiting Murray State to -10 yards on 26 carries.
With Illinois’ defense keeping Murray State (0-1) in check, Illini quarterback Wes Lunt threw for 226 yards and three touchdowns heading to the bench in the third quarter.
Kendrick Foster also ran for a pair of 56-yard touchdowns for Illinois. He carried the ball just four times for 118 yards.
A year ago the Illini had just seen coach Tim Beckman fired, and Smith became their third coach in less than a year after Beckman-replacement Bill Cubit was fired.
Illinois faces a tough test and its first Top 25 opponent of the season when North Carolina visits Champaign on Saturday. The Tar Heels handled the Illini last season in Chapel Hill, 48-14.