Illinois gets Brandon Peters back, looks for ‘D’ in Maryland matchup

Illinois gets its No. 1 signal-caller back but strives to address defensive deficiencies before Maryland hits town on Friday night.

The matchup marks the Big Ten opener for Maryland.

Illinois (1-2, 1-0 Big Ten) kicked off coach Bret Bielema’s first season with a 30-22 victory over Nebraska on Aug. 28. Quarterback Brandon Peters injured his non-throwing shoulder in the first quarter of that game, but Bielema said Peters has healed and will return as the starter Friday.

“A lot of the things that we had saw (from Peters) during fall camp and even going back to last spring, through the summer, through fall camp, weren’t able to be materialized yet,” Bielema said. “He obviously has a very live arm, a lot of experience.”

Second-stringer Artur Sitkowski played well in Peters’ stead, but the Fighting Illini have struggled since beating Nebraska. They absorbed a 37-30 loss against UTSA and a 42-14 drubbing at Virginia. As a result, Illinois ranks 113th of 130 FBS teams in scoring defense (33.7 ppg).

Bielema said Virginia dominated Illinois on explosive plays, which his staff defines as runs of 12 yards or more and passes of 20 yards or more. Cavaliers quarterback Brennan Armstrong completed nine passes of at least 20 yards on his way to a stellar five-TD showing.

“We definitely have to look at how those plays happen,” Bielema said. “There were technique errors, there were mental errors, there were situations of plays that they’d given us new looks, seeing things that we hadn’t seen before, and we just (weren’t) able to identify them.”

Maryland (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten) will hit the road for the first time this season after cruising to a 62-0 victory over FCS foe Howard. Eight different players accounted for the Terrapins’ eight touchdowns Saturday, and Taulia Tagovailoa completed 22 of 27 passes for 274 yards and three scores.

The Terrapins, who also topped West Virginia 30-24 in their season opener, received 14 votes in the Associated Press poll following Week 2. But they know the schedule will only get tougher from here.

“As a team we’re excited to be 2-0,” coach Mike Locksley said. “It was great to see, with us being able to play a lot of players (vs. Howard), that the standard of playing with a high level of intensity — no matter what the score, no matter who the opponent — it was good to see that from our team.”

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