Illinois faces Charlotte, hoping to end 4-game skid

National Sports

All the euphoria from a season-opening win under a new coach seems to be a distant memory right now for Illinois.

Since then, it’s been all disappointment as the Fighting Illini try to avoid a fifth straight loss on Saturday against visiting Charlotte in the first meeting between the teams.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that Illinois opened up their season — and the tenure of Bret Bielema — with an upset win at home over Nebraska in front of a national TV audience.

In the four subsequent losses for Illinois (1-4), the margin of defeat has been seven points or fewer on three occasions.

“It’s frustrating, I get it,” Bielema said. “I tell these guys we have to keep chipping away.”

Illinois managed just three field goals in the 13-9 loss to Purdue on Sept. 25, in spite of an outstanding performance by freshman running back Josh McCray, who rushed for 156 yards on 24 carries in just his fourth game.

“The part that amazes me every time is how resilient they are and the lessons they are learning,” Bielema said. “This process isn’t going to be an easy one, but it’s going to be one that’s going to be worth it.”

Illinois has averaged just 13.3 points scored in its last three games.

Charlotte (3-1) stayed perfect through three home games this season with a 42-39 win on Sept. 25 over Middle Tennessee. Quarterback Chris Reynolds accounted for five touchdowns, four of them through the air.

It was a nice bounce-back performance for the 49ers, who scored just nine points in a loss to Georgia State the week before.

“You just feel really good when this football team is playing to where we are going to find ways to win games,” Charlotte head coach Will Healy said. “I thought we responded really well when adversity hit.”

Reynolds, a senior, enters the contest having completed 60.4 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and only two interceptions in four games.

–Field Level Media

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