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The Day After: It Can't Get Any Worse, Can It?

Breaking down yesterday's loss while counting down the days until basketball season.


So in These Four Things on Friday I listed the four things -- what a coincidence! -- that I thought the Illini had to do to beat Indiana on Saturday. Those four things were

1. Score first - Check!

2. Run the ball - 196 yards on 55 carries, not great, but effective enough. Check!

3. Limit turnovers - Well, there were 2 turnovers, but Indiana had 1 as well, so it wasn't that bad. Still, no check here.

4. Organization on defense - On a whole the defense played well when it wasn't committing incredibly dumb penalties to keep Indiana drives alive. So a half-check.

Unfortunately I forgot to list "keep a team that has had only 12 sacks on the season from sacking your quarterback 7 times." Oh well, hindsight is 20/20.

Honestly, there are a lot of problems with this Illinois team this season, but yesterday's game brought the biggest one to the forefront. This offensive line is terrible. I haven't gone over a replay of the game yet, but I'm terrified of what I'm going to see from this offensive line.

There is simply no stunt a defense can run that we can block. Nathan Scheelhaase was just a tackling dummy on Saturday, and after taking shot after shot from Indiana defenders all day, he broke. Not physically, but mentally. It felt like every time he dropped back to pass in the fourth quarter he wasn't looking for a receiver as much as he was looking for a blitzer and just waiting to be hit.

Which is why I wish the Illini had run the ball more often. I get why they couldn't late when trailing by two scores, but there were more than a few situations when Whoever It Is That's Calling The Plays made some truly baffling decisions.

I'd name just one play in particular, but the truth is there were just too many. Things like going with an empty backfield on third and 2 when you've been picking up chunks of yards on the ground. Shit that just doesn't make any sense.

"But they think we're going to run!"

So what? Execute and it doesn't matter.

And not to pile on Tim Beckman, who is going to have the heat turned up on him even more this week, all the problems this team is experiencing scream coaching to me. It's not just the play-calling.

The lack of discipline on defense with the personal fouls killed the Illini yesterday. Of Indiana's four touchdown drives, two were helped by personal fouls -- Terry Hawthorne's moved the Hoosiers to the Illinois 23-yard line, and Justin Staples' late hit gave Indiana a first down.

Then there was the offensive line which looks like it hasn't actually been taught anything about pass-blocking. It surely couldn't have just been a talent mismatch. Or maybe it is. I mean, this is a team that's not allowed 35 sacks in eight games. That's 4.375 sacks allowed per game.

So maybe the entire offensive line is just absolutely terrible and there's nothing Luke Butkus can do about it. Of course, if that's actually the case, then the play-calling has to be adjusted further. You can't just keep calling the same plays hoping the line will get things right that time.

Next week, of course, the Illini travel to Columbus to take on an Ohio State team that's 9-0. That should be fun. Not only will it be our offensive line against the Buckeyes front seven, but it will be Beckman and Co. against Urban Meyer and Co.

Should be a blast.