CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Chase Brown rushed for 146 yards on 20 carries, Tommy DeVito threw for 196 yards and two scores and the Illinois defense stifled Virginia’s once-potent attack to lead the Fighting Illini to a 24-3 victory on Saturday.
Things looked dicey for Illinois (2-1, 0-1 Big Ten) after DeVito threw an interception on his first pass attempt of the day and when Brown fumbled after a first-down run.
However, a dominant defense cleared the path to victory as the Illini held Virginia (1-1) to 1 of 16 on third-down conversions.
Cornerback Devon Witherspoon shined with seven tackles and three pass breakups and defensive end Keith Randolph came up with 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and seven tackles.
DeVito bounced back to complete 17 of 25 passes, including 39-yard and 2-yard touchdown throws to tight ends Michael Marchese and Tip Reiman, respectively, to help the Illini take a 21-3 lead into the half.
True freshman Matthew Bailey put Illinois ahead 7-3 by recovering a muffed punt that bounced into the end zone for a touchdown with 5:38 left in the opening quarter.
Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong struggled to find his receivers, completing just 13 of 32 passes for 180 yards with two interceptions. He threw for 405 yards and five touchdowns in a 42-14 win against the Illini in 2021.
Cavaliers running backs combined for 42 rushing yards on 29 carries.
Brendan Farrell put Virginia ahead in the first quarter with a 42-yard field goal for the Cavaliers’ lone score.
Bailey and safety Kendall Smith intercepted Armstrong twice in the fourth quarter to halt a pair of Virginia drives.
Illinois converted on 5 of 14 third-down attempts and out-gained Virginia by 172 yards.
Stingy defense bailed Illinois out repeatedly as Ryan Walters’ crew allowed just three points off four first-half turnovers. Virginia gained 11 yards on two drives that started in Illinois territory after takeaways.
Caleb Griffin tacked on a 23-yard field goal in the third quarter for Illinois.
Virginia head coach Tony Elliott has a talented quarterback and capable receivers, but the Cavaliers will need to improve along its offensive line throughout the season to compete in the ACC.
The Illini look like they won’t be a pushover in a Big Ten West division that saw normal front-runners like Wisconsin and Iowa lose on Saturday.
Virginia: The Cavaliers welcome Old Dominion to Scott Stadium next Saturday.
Illinois: The Illini host FCS opponent Chattanooga on Thursday night in Champaign.