Arizona fumble in fourth quarter leads to 9-7 loss

The Associated Press

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. After surrendering 72 points in two games, the Illinois defense finally did something heroic Saturday.

The Illini forced five turnovers, including a fumble that was turned into the winning touchdown, and upset No. 17 Arizona 9-7.

''It gives the young players and the old coaches their enthusiasm back. ... I know that there are a lot of people who wrote us off after two games,'' Illinois coach Lou Tepper said.

It was the Wildcats' first game since the death Sept. 7 of popular tight end Damon Terrell. Coach Dick Tomey skipped the game to attend the funeral in Los Angeles.

''It was hard to be out there, real hard,'' Arizona receiver Rodney Williams said. ''Damon and I were real close. I was the last player to see him.''

Illinois offensive coordinator Paul Schudel had his own personal tragedy to endure. His daughter Jennifer, 25, died Friday night in Florida after a long illness. His plane landed here 10 minutes before kickoff.

The Wildcats (2-1) were ahead 7-3 with 5:15 to play when Kevin Schmidtke caught a third-down pass and lost the ball after a hit by safety Tyrone Washington. Linebacker David James grabbed the ball on the bounce and raced 53 yards to the end zone.

''I saw nobody in front of me except the QB,'' James said. ''It was wide open.''

Both offenses were overwhelmed by stout defenses until the fourth quarter when a 47-yard field goal into a south wind by Illinois' Bret Scheuplein broke a scoreless tie.

On the next possession, the Wildcats moved 80 yards in nine plays, capped by Dan White's 17-yard touchdown pass to Williams.

Illinois (1-2) had only nine first downs and 139 yards of offense. With the home fans booing Johnny Johnson, the Illini replaced their starting quarterback with Scott Weaver on the drive that led to the field goal.

''We felt we needed to get him out of there just to give him a rest,'' Schudel said. ''He was under duress.''

White completed 17 of 34 passes for 195 yards. Arizona's Gary Taylor topped all rushers with 24 carries for 113 yards.

''We shot ourselves in the foot a lot,'' White said. ''A penalty here, an inteception, a fumble it didn't go our way.''

As the teams lined up for the opening kickoff, Arizona called a timeout. The Wildcats then formed the letters D and T on the sideline and pointed their helmets to the sky. Safety Shawn Parnell also held Terrell's No. 80 jersey.

The only highlight of the first half was the play of Illinois linebacker Simeon Rice, who became the Big Ten's career sack leader. He finished the game with four sacks, increasing his career total to 40.

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