Bob Asmussen's Winning Ways Propel Illini Back into West Race

Champaign, Illinois – Luke Altmyer is proving his mettle in the realm of college football. Following Illinois’ nail-biting 27-24 victory over Maryland last Saturday, the Mississippi transfer can now boast two game-winning, two-minute drives to his name. Quite an achievement, considering Altmyer’s limited experience during his two seasons in Oxford, Mississippi.

During his tenure with Mississippi, comprising nine games with a single start, he threw for a modest 317 yards, accumulating three touchdown passes and three interceptions.

Since donning the Illini jersey, Altmyer has nearly quintupled his career passing statistics, accumulating an impressive 1,571 yards. While his touchdown-to-interception ratio remains in the negative (8:9), he still has five more games this season to reverse those numbers.

Seven games into his Illini journey, Altmyer has secured the trust and belief of both his coaches and teammates. Notably, he’s also growing more confident in himself, all with a touch of Southern humility.

Reflecting on his progress, Altmyer shared, “It’s been a learning experience. My first year truly playing in a challenging conference like the Big Ten has had its share of ups and downs. I don’t believe I’ve played my best yet; I think the best is yet to come. Each game, I feel like the pace is slowing down a bit, but it’s still a process, and I’m taking it one step at a time.”

In contrast to his time at Mississippi, where he played backup to two different starters, Altmyer is now the man in charge at Illinois, with no doubt about it.

Altmyer admitted, “I feel like every single rep is something new and something I have to get used to a little bit. I don’t feel like I’m quite there yet.”

Highlighting his recent accomplishments, Altmyer delivered a stellar performance in a high-pressure situation at Maryland. With the score tied at 24-24, Illinois initiated its final drive from their own 25-yard line with just one minute and 31 seconds remaining. Altmyer led a seven-play, 50-yard drive to set up the game-winning 43-yard field goal by Caleb Griffin as time expired.

When asked about his mindset during the drive, Altmyer explained, “Similar to the Toledo game, you’ve got to go down there and get a score or at least put Caleb in a position to make a field goal. Try to put the ball in the playmakers’ hands, whatever was called in that situation.”

One crucial play during the drive was a 29-yard completion to Casey Washington, backed by a 12-yard throw to Aidan Laughery, along with substantial runs by Altmyer and Kaden Feagin.

“I tried to just do my job and execute. We were put in great situations, and I’ve got a lot of great players around me,” Altmyer said.

Illinois frequently practices the two-minute drill, preparing for various scenarios. Altmyer noted, “Our coaches were fully prepared, and I think we were too.”

When the moment of truth arrived with Griffin lining up for the kick, Altmyer confessed, “I came off to the sideline and sat in a chair.” Did he watch? “I had my head down and I was peeking back and forth,” Altmyer admitted, citing it as nerves. But he was confident Griffin would make the kick.

He was particularly pleased to see the crowd’s silence, acknowledging, “It’s cool to take the air out of the stadium. It was cool to see our fans react the way they did and the way they showed up for us. It really meant a lot.”

Altmyer’s trust in Griffin’s ability to convert the kick was unwavering. “Everybody on our sideline had so much trust in him to do it,” he emphasized.

The victory over Maryland helped ease the sting of the four losses Illinois endured in the first half of the season. Altmyer expressed his satisfaction, saying, “It was definitely a good feeling after a few losses to get a win against a really good team. A 5-1 football team in the Big Ten on the road was great.”

However, Altmyer remains focused on improvement and not taking winning for granted. He’s already preparing for the upcoming game against Wisconsin, a strong opponent.

This weekend’s matchup against Wisconsin marks Altmyer’s eighth start for Illinois (3-4, 1-3 Big Ten). It will also be his first homecoming game at the school.

Altmyer has relied on a veteran group of wide receivers, including Isaiah Williams and Pat Bryant, who rank first and 16th, respectively, in the Big Ten in catches. Casey Washington has also made significant contributions.

Altmyer praised his receiving corps, saying, “Those three have been there and done that. It started as soon as I got here in January, working so hard on the weekends and throughout the week. In spring, summer, and fall camp, we’ve developed such a chemistry. Their confidence gives me confidence too.

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