Leading 6-0 on Chase McLaughlin field goals of 37 and 26 yards early in the first half, the Fighting Illini (2-0) took advantage of the Hilltoppers' questionable decision to pass from their 2-yard line.
Under duress, Mike White's toss to the left was picked off by Julian Jones, who returned it 10 yards for an easy score with 1:21 left in the half. That gave Illinois a 13-0 halftime lead.
Illinois then pieced together its best drive of the night, going 84 yards on 15 plays to open the third quarter. Quarterback Chayce Crouch finished it with a 9-yard run, toppling over a defender at the goal line to make it 20-0 at the 8:41 mark of the period.
White's 2-yard run with 11:38 remaining in the game put Western Kentucky (1-1) on the board, but it couldn't apply any more pressure to the Illini. The Hilltoppers mustered no threat on the ground, managing only 6 yards on 16 rushes.
White completed 28 of 43 passes for 238 yards, but no play went longer than 23 yards. Nacarius Fant caught 10 passes for 110 yards for Western Kentucky, which entered the game as a 6 1/2-point favorite against its Big Ten opponent. .
Freshman Mike Epstein rolled up 111 yards on 21 carries for Illinois, while Crouch completed 14 of 25 passes for 107 yards and added 44 yards on 12 rushes.
Yellow flags literally and figuratively colored both teams' efforts. The Hilltoppers were penalized 11 times for 100 yards, while the Illini drew nine markers for 95 yards