- Image 1 of 2
- Image 2 of 2
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt is expected to return Saturday against Purdue after he was a surprise scratch from the lineup last weekend at Nebraska, coach Tim Beckman said Monday.
Lunt was told Friday that he wouldn't play against Nebraska after suffering a right-knee injury the week before in a win over Texas State. The team kept it quiet until just before game time at Nebraska on Saturday.
The injury, which offensive coordinator Bill Cubit said was "like a little sprain," meant Lunt wouldn't have been able to move well enough to protect himself, Cubit and Beckman said.
"I don't think you take a quarterback and allow them to blitz like they did and play a quarterback that's not totally healthy," Beckman said.
Lunt's play might not have made a difference in the outcome in the 45-14 loss to the Cornhuskers. Illinois (3-2) couldn't stop running back Ameer Abdullah, who had 208 yards and three touchdowns. That more than anything decided the game.
But Lunt is one of the Big Ten's top passers. He has 11 touchdowns and is averaging a conference-best 309.2 yards a game.
Backup Reilly O'Toole was 17-38 for 261 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. The Cornhuskers sacked him four times.
Neither quarterback was available during Monday's regular media session.
Lunt is practicing but Cubit said he still wants to see the redshirt sophomore show "a little mobility. We'll see if he can protect himself."
Lunt was hurt by his own man in the third quarter of the win over Texas State two Saturdays ago, Cubit said. One of his blockers lost his balance and was knocked back into Lunt's knee.
Talking about it Monday, Cubit shuddered. Lunt never left the game, insisting he wasn't injured and playing on what the offensive coordinator said was adrenaline. By Sunday he had trouble walking.
"I think we're really, really fortunate that it wasn't a major injury," Cubit said.
Purdue (2-3) doesn't have a pass rusher who has gotten the attention of Nebraska's Randy Gregory, but the Boilermakers have 13 sacks, third in the conference and more than the Cornhuskers. Defensive tackle Ryan Watson has four of them.
Lunt has a history of injuries dating to high school. He lost the starting job at Oklahoma State his freshman year because of an injury before transferring to Illinois.
Making quick decisions with the ball in his hands, including throwing it away when he needs to, will be important for Lunt if he wants to stay upright Saturday, Cubit said.
"When we get rid of the ball quickly, we're OK, we're not getting hit," Cubit said. "Its' when there's indecision. That's where you hold it, that's where you get hit."
NOTES: Beckman said Illinois tried 18 different kinds of blitzes against Nebraska to try to get defensive penetration after Abdullah started running wild. The Cornhuskers finished with a combined 458 yards rushing and five touchdowns. ... The coach acknowledged his defenders struggled to shed blocks against Nebraska, something he said they continue to work on. ... The Purdue game looks like one of the more winnable games left on Illinois' schedule as it tries to find three more victories and a trip to a bowl, but Beckman insisted Monday that the game is no more of a must-win than any other.
Follow David Mercer on Twitter: https://twitter.com/davidmercerap