- Associated Press - Saturday, April 18, 2015

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Injuries forced the University of Illinois football team to rely on reserves Saturday during the team’s intra-squad spring game.

Looking to build off its first bowl appearance under coach Tim Beckman, the Orange team held on to a 44-41 win in the scrimmage.

The Illini had just three healthy interior defensive linemen available for the game, so the teams were split into the starters (Orange team) and reserves (White team). In order to add a competitive element to the game, the White team was awarded a 17-0 lead to start the game and 17 more points at halftime to regain a 34-27 lead.

“We gave the White team a couple points, then a couple more, as the game got out of hand,” Beckman said. “I thought it was important for our team to compete.”

Injuries to Mike Dudek and Dre Brown figure to take a bite out of the Illini offense, although Dionte Taylor and Henry Enyenihi filled in with solid performances.

Quarterback Wes Lunt was sharp, completing 17 of 26 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns in the first half and didn’t see the field in the second half.

“I thought today the offense took a step forward,” Lunt said. “Today was probably one of our best practices of the spring.”

Big plays continued to haunt the Illini defense. The White defense allowed five plays of 30 or more yards in the first half.

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QUARTERBACK CAROUSEL: Last year’s spring game featured a three-man competition for the starting quarterback spot; this year’s squad has only one with college experience. Behind Lunt, redshirt freshman Chayce Crouch saw action with both teams, while true freshman Jeff George Jr. was the White team’s quarterback during the second half.

REPLACING DUDEK: Losing freshman All-American Mike Dudek to a torn ACL left the Illini without their primary receiver in the slot, but seldom-used junior Dionte Taylor was effective in the role Saturday. Taylor caught three passes for 67 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown on a bubble screen where Taylor shook off a tackler to break free for the score.

SAVING FERGUSON: With early enrollee Dre Brown tearing his ACL during Thursday’s practice, the Illini have an even larger void behind Josh Ferguson at running back. Ferguson saw three touches for minus-6 yards on the first possession of the game and didn’t see the field for the rest of the game. Enyenihi carried the ball 16 times for 87 yards and a touchdown in Ferguson’s stead.

BIG PLAYS: The Illini defense returns eight starters from last year’s squad, although there were still some of the red flags that haunted last year’s unit. The White defense allowed 44 points and 462 total yards. Missed tackles in the secondary sprung multiple big plays for the Orange team.

KICKING COMPETITION: In the ever-evolving competition at kicker, Taylor Zalewski was 3-for-3 on field goals, connecting from 22, 27 and 49 yards. For the White team, David Reisner missed both his attempts on the day, including a potential game-tying attempt from 44 yards with 1:06 remaining.

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