CHAMPAIGN — Joseph Petrino kicked a 32-yard field goal as time expired to lift Maryland over Illinois 20-17 on Friday night.
Quarterback Brandon Peters, in his first start since being injured early in the first game of the season against Nebraska, was effective but clearly rusty for the Illini (1-3, 1-1 Big Ten). He was 10-of-26 passing for 185 yards and one interception.
Josh McCray carried the ball eight times for 60 yards and had a 38-yard touchdown run for the Illini. Chase Brown carried 14 times for 57 yards. Receiver Casey Washington had a 30-yard touchdown run.
The game got interesting on the first drive of the third quarter. Taulia Tagovailoa, who passed for 350 yards (32-of-43) but was held to only one passing touchdown, marched the Terrapins (3-0, 1-0) down the field to cap a drive with a two-yard touchdown run by Tayon Fleet-Davis for a 10-3 lead. Illinois then went three-and-out, but Maryland fumbled the ball on its next drive at Illinois’ 7, preventing what appeared to be a certain score.
The Illini then put together an impressive eight-play drive capped by McCray’s 38-yard touchdown run.
McCray and Brown would each leave the game in the second half with injuries, which severely hindered the Illinois offense.
The Illini took the lead in the fourth quarter, after a series of fumbles and turnovers by both teams, when Washington recovered a fumble by teammate Reggie Love III and scampered 38 yards into the end zone.
Maryland answered with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Tagovailoa to Fleet-Davis to tie the score at 17 with 2:13 remaining.
Illinois couldn’t put together an offensive drive late, and Maryland took advantage of a short field after an Illinois punt from its own end zone that helped set up Petrino’s game-winning kick.
The first half featured impressive defensive play by both teams. The Illinois secondary was especially tough, and Tagovailoa had a hard time finding open receivers down field.
It was a tough loss for an Illinois team clearly ready for a superior opponent, while Maryland should consider itself lucky to escape with a win.
Maryland: Hosts Kent State on Sept. 25
Illinois: Travels to Purdue for another Big Ten matchup on Sept. 25.