Illinois opens Smith era with 52-3 win over Murray State

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The Illinois Fighting Illini open the 2016 college football season with a home game against the Murray State on Saturday afternoon.

Lovie Smith has this team tuned into what he wants to do.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Wes Lunt threw for 226 yards and three touchdowns and Kendrick Foster ran for a pair of 56-yard touchdowns to give new IL coach Lovie Smith his first win, 52-3 over Murray State.

ILLINOIS: Smith says linebacker Hardy Nickerson, the son of defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson, is the quarterback of his defense. "I didn't get a whole lot of sleep last night". I was excited about today.

"There was a lot of anticipation for this", he said.

"There was a little bit of growing pains, but I think those guys rose to the occasion, " Lunt said.

"I forgot my phone before the game, I was going to get a selfie with (Smith)", Stewart joked.

IL didn't do a ton on the offensive side of the ball in the second quarter.

Humphries didn't get the dream start he wanted on national television, throwing interceptions on consecutive drives to open the game.

Lunt from Rochester and Turner from Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin were not the only two former central IL high school standouts to have a big game on Saturday.

"We just told each other that we had to 'throw our rock, '" added Williams about the effort. "But we realize it's one, and tomorrow we'll be right back at it".

But the stiffened defensive effort finally gave way before halftime. The Racers' lone offensive success by that point had come from a 10-play, 64-yard drive that resulted in a 34-yard field goal from Connor Mitchell.

The big offensive play of the quarter was a 30 yards touchdown pass from Lunt to Desmond Cain. In addition to pressure from Illinois, Humphries' early struggles may have reflected that, Stewart said. He knew he wasn't going to be able to sit back there and go through all of his progressions. I've seen him do a lot of things. Redshirt junior running back Mark Dodson II ran the ball four times for 16 yards to lead the Racers' rushing attack. Murray State wound up with minus-10 rushing yards on 26 attempts - turning things more one-dimensional against a Big Ten defense.

Murray State will host Missouri State at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10 at Stewart Stadium.

NOTES: It was a ideal recipe for September football, as temperatures were observed in the mid-70s with a 9 miles per hour ENE wind and 52 percent humidity. Safety Julian Hylton intercepted Humphries less than a minute into the game, setting up a 5-yard Lunt scoring pass to Malik Turner. That pick was followed by a 68-yard Lunt-to-Turner strike and a 14-0 lead.

Both of Foster's long touchdown runs came behind the makeshift line.

The 2 touchdowns that were thrown by Lunt were to Malik Turner.

ILL-Corbin 1 run (McLaughlin kick), 14:19. The sophomore finished with 49 yards on 17 carries. The Racers finished with 165 yards of total offense, while IL finished with 515 yards of total offense. Illinois, Lunt 15-21-0-226, Crouch 1-3-0-2. He has 3 catches for 83 yards and 2 touchdowns already.