Illinois looked into Marcus Crandell’s eyes and saw a way to turn around its postseason luck.
The Fighting Illini defense, noticing that East Carolina’s quarterback tipped his hand by staring at his intended receivers, picked off four of Crandell’s passes Saturday in routing the Pirates 30-0 in the Liberty Bowl.
“Once we started getting a feel for him, we were breaking on him every time he threw it, sometimes even before it was thrown,” said Illinois linebacker Kevin Hardy, who had an interception.
“(Turnovers were) certainly a big part of the game, and it was unlike East Illinois (7-5) had lost seven of its last eight bowls, but took control quickly against the Pirates (7-5).
The Fighting Illini, whose defense ranked ninth in the nation, handed East Carolina its first shutout of the season. “All the mistakes we made were due to the pressure they put on us,” East Carolina coach Steve Logan said.
East Carolina, playing in only its third bowl since 1965, never established its offense, finishing with 271 yards. Crandell, eighth nationally in total offense at 253 yards a game, was 20 of 41 for 179 yards.
Johnny Johnson threw for a career-high four touchdowns. He was 18 of 30 for 250 yards with TD passes of 17, 73, 5 and 9 yards, tying the Liberty Bowl record set by Purdue’s Mark Herrman in 1980 against Missouri.
Illinois 30, E. Carolina 0
Illinois 14 10 6 0 - 30 East Carolina 0 0 0 0 - 0
Ill-Dilger 17 pass from J.Johnson (Richardson kick)
Ill-Strong 73 pass from J.Johnson (Richardson kick)
Ill-FG Richardson 21
Ill-Dulick 5 pass from J.Johnson (Richardson kick)
Ill-Douthard 9 pass from J.Johnson (kick failed)
Ill EC First downs 18 17 Rushes-yards 36-134 23-92 Passing 255 179 Return Yards 25 23 Comp-Att-Int 20-34-0 20-41-4 Punts 6-38 5-41 Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-1 Penalties-Yards 15-164 6-40 Time of Possession 35:22 24:38
RUSHINGIllinois, Douthard 13-52, Holcombe 12-46, Jackson 2-11, Sanders 3-10, J.Johnson 3-9, Mattison 2-7, Gilmore 1-(minus 1). E. Carolina, Smith 15-46, McPhail 4-38, Crandell 4-8.
PASSINGIllinois, J.Johnson 18-30-0-250, Weaver 2-4-0-5. E. Carolina, Crandell 20-41-4-179.
RECEIVINGIllinois, Dilger 7-60, Strong 3-96, Dulick 3-30, Cushing 2-44, Douthard 2-10, Klein 1-10, Mosely 1-5, Jackson 1-0. E. Carolina, Nichols 6-55, Richards 4-25, Williams 3-33, Richardson 2-11, Galloway 2-11, McPhail 1-31, Shannon 1-10, Wilson 1-3.
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