Final score: Illinois Fighting Freshman 20, Western Kentucky 7.
The Illini moved to 2-0 on the season with a dominating win over the favored Hilltoppers, thanks to contributions from seven true freshmen starters, the most in program history.
Offensively, running back Mike Epstein (111 yards) and linemen Alex Palczewsi and Larry Boyd led a rushing attack that finished with 193 yards, and tight end Louis Dorsey had a 20-yard catch on 3rd-and-17 to extend a second-quarter drive. Defensively, cornerback Nate Hobbs had six tackles (including one tackle for loss) and ends Bobby Roundtree (below) and Isaiah Gay combined for five tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks.
"Whenever you’re a freshman and you’ve moved into the starting lineup in a Big Ten school, it’s saying an awful lot about you and what we think of you,'' said head coach Lovie Smith. "We put guys out there that we think can win football games. Bobby Roundtree has been a good player since he’s been on campus. Isaiah Gay has done the same thing.''
While Roundtree and Gay became the first pair of true freshmen defensive ends to start for Illinois since 1980, Palczewsi and Boyd were the first pair of true freshmen offensive linemen to start in program history. It was also the first time they started four true freshmen on offense. The Illini also had four other true freshman make their first career appearances — including Epstein's backup, Ra'Von Bonner, who rushed for 25 yards.
The last time Illinois started at least five true freshmen was Nov. 11, 2006, against Purdue when quarterback Juice Williams, cornerback Vontae Davis and the Illini lost, 42-31. Thirteen months later they were playing in the Rose Bowl.