Illinois quarterback Luke Altmyer was benched after throwing four interceptions during Saturday’s home loss to No. 7 Penn State, but offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. is “certainly confident” Altmyer can regroup.
“You process it,” Lunney Jr. said. “You go in and swallow the frog. You have to eat it, watch it, learn from it.”
Altmyer and the Fighting Illini (1-2) look to end a two-game skid when they host Florida Atlantic this week.
The Owls bring plenty of speed and perimeter athletic ability to Champaign. The personnel presents a challenge to an Illinois defense that has lost defensive backs Matt Bailey (shoulder) and Demetrius Hill (torn ACL) to season-ending injuries.
“Offensively, the big question will be how Luke comes back and responds. I called him on Saturday,” Fighting Illini head coach Bret Bielema said. “Let him know where I was at, how he was feeling. Sunday was a tough day for everybody, I like the demeanor we were in Sunday.”
Illinois had five turnovers against Penn State, but a disciplined defense that committed zero penalties helped the team stick around for a portion of the game.
Illinois defensive coordinator Aaron Henry lauded the efforts of defensive lineman Johnny Newton, who had six tackles, including one for a loss, while staying disruptive at the line of scrimmage.
“As he continues to play that way,” Henry said, “we have a chance to win every football game.”
Florida Atlantic (1-2) also tries to rebound as it visits a Power Five opponent for the second week in a row. The Owls fell behind 34-0 at halftime of their Sept. 17 game at Clemson on the way to a 48-14 defeat and lost quarterback Casey Thompson to a season-ending knee injury.
“I know the scoreboard is awful and the way we looked for a lot of the first half was awful, and our guys responded for the most part,” Owls coach Tom Herman said.
“We are going to really do a good job of accentuating and promoting the guys that upheld our standard and our culture regardless of the scoreboard and also make sure we point out the guys that did not.”
Wide receiver LaJohntay Wester would figure to belong in the former category after contributing 12 receptions for 108 yards. A junior, Wester recorded his first career game of at least 10 catches while becoming the program’s all-time receptions leader with 163.
Owls linebacker Jackson Ambush had a game-high eight tackles.
Saturday marks the first meeting between Illinois and Florida Atlantic.