CHAMPAIGN, Illinois (Ticker) -- Jon Beutjer grabbed a stranglehold on the starting job by tossing four touchdown passes and Morris Virgil rushed for three scores as Illinois earned its first win of the season, 59-7 over Arkansas State.
Making his first start at Illinois (1-2), Beutjer completed 17-of-21 passes for 266 yards, throwing a TD pass in the first quarter, two in the second and one more in the fourth.
Beutjer transferred from Iowa at the start of the academic year in 2001 and was forced to sit out the entire season. This year, he played the final quarter in a 33-20 season-opening loss to Missouri and began the second half in a 23-20 loss at Southern Mississippi.
Dustin Ward - the first Champaign native to start at quarterback for Illinois since John Easterbrook in 1960 - completed both of his passes for 33 yards.
Virgil, a backup to senior Antoineo Harris, carried 12 times for 131 yards, scoring on runs of two, 69 and 20 yards. His longest run made it 45-7 with 3:16 left in the third quarter and his last one capped the scoring with 8:32 to play.
Harris rushed eight times for 62 yards for the Fighting Illini, who had 600 yards of total offense to 313 for Arkansas State (1-3). Illinois finished with 315 yards rushing.
Elliot Jacobs threw for 165 yards and a score for the Indians, who are in their second season of Division I-A football.
Beutjer opened the scoring midway through the first quarter with an 18-yard pass to Walter Young. Illinois reeled off the next 17 points, including a blocked punt that Kendrick Jones recovered in the end zone.
After Arkansas State got on the board in the closing seconds of the first half, Beutjer threw consecutive scoring passes 7:13 apart in the third quarter - a 34-yarder to Brandon Lloyd and four-yarder to Greg Lewis.
Lloyd had six catches for 119 yards.
Virgil, a 5-11 sophomore, then sprinted 69 yards for a score with 3:16 remaining in the third quarter. Beutjer's final TD pass was a three-yarder to Jason Davis 44 seconds into the fourth.