June 18, 2024

Chase Brown riding high with a memorable October

Illinois Fighting Illini Football

Illinois running back Chase Brown warms up before game against Wisconsin Saturday October 2, 2021 at Memorial Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

Illinois’ sophomore running back has been astonishing everyone this month and is coming off his second 200-yard rushing performance.

Chase Brown continues to raise eyebrows across the Big Ten, with his workhorse production. He carried the ball 33 times in the overtime win at Penn State, which was a season-high. It was the longest game in FBS history, and for Brown’s heroics, he was named the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Week.

It was the second time this October that Brown has earned conference honors and he’s arguably playing like the best rusher in the Big Ten. Not to mention ESPN analyst Sam Acho gave Brown a helmet sticker on College Football Final. The Canadian was Illinois’ leading rusher in 2020, but Bielema had a crowded backfield going into the season.

Brown has emerged as the best back, so it’s no surprise that Coach Bret Bielema continues to feed the beast. After all, the 5-foot-11, 205-pounder is all braun and Bielema been using him like a battering ram on offense. There’s nothing like having a running back, who wears down on a defense as the game prolongs, and Brown is a load.

In victories over Charlotte and Penn State, he delivered for the Fighting Illini in the clutch. Now he’s swiftly becoming a household name in the league.¬†However, a lot of credit goes to the big boys up front.

Illinois’ offensive line has been opening up gaping holes for Brown and the rest of the running backs to run through. Bielema challenged the unit and made it public during the bye-week. It all lit a fire under the group, and they responded in a big way with their best performance of the season. The offensive line is one of the main reasons Brown is averaging 6.85 yards per carry, which ranks second in the Big Ten and ninth in the FBS.

The Fighting Illini’s experience was the difference in the trenches and it didn’t even matter that the Nittany Lions had more talent. Now Illinois (3-5) has momentum, with four games left on the slate. Bielema’s squad will have to win three of those contests to become bowl eligible, but it’s definitely a possibility.

Rutgers and Northwestern are both at home and Illinois will likely be favored in both clashes. It could very well come down to Illinois pulling off an upset on the road at either Minnesota or Iowa. Regardless, with a rusher like Brown, the Fighting Illini has a chance to be in every game.

It’ll be interesting to see what the former three-star prospect can do for an encore against a Scarlet Knight team coming off four-straight losses. Rutgers (3-4) has the 11th worst rush defense in the Big Ten and Brown should be licking his chops on the eve of Halloween.

Motivation shouldn’t be an issue, with the Fighting Illini still having a lot to play for. The matchup will be the perfect opportunity for Brown to put an exclamation point on this month, especially if the All-Big Ten back is healthy enough for another 30 carries.