Coming into today, the Illini had four games left in the season with a possible shot at a bowl game if they could just beat the Indiana Hoosiers. And for three quarters of today's game, that looked like a very real possibility. The team hung close with Indiana throughout the first half, only down by seven when entering the locker room. They even managed to go up by seven with 24 minutes left in the game. But then they took they're foot off the gas and things rapidly went south.
And it's beyond disheartening. It was one thing when the games were just blowouts and incompetence ran wild. But Nathan Scheelhaase is finally having a season worthy of all his potential and it's just getting flushed away by questionable play-calling and an incredibly lackluster defense. Yes, Indiana has a very good offense. But when you let your opponent crack 50 points, you're going to have a very hard time winning. The most frustrating aspect? The Hoosiers didn't even drastically outgain the Illini! Indiana had 646 total yards to Illinois' 614, yet Illinois still lost by 17 points. The team is better than last year, there is no denying that. But they still can't finish. The Purdue game should still be a win and Northwestern is still a toss-up, but a potential 5-7 record still feels like a disappointment which is odd considering where we were in August.
- Jonathan Brown intercepted a pass, giving the Illini their first interception since the Southern Illinois game. Dear lord that is sad.
- Nate continues to march towards Juice Williams' school record for total yards. He was 38-57 for 450 yards with two TDs and 1 INT on the day. He even tossed in 45 yards on the ground with a TD just for fun, since it ultimately didn't matter. If Nate is capable of such numbers in this offense, it's exciting to think about what Wes Lunt will be able to do next fall.
- Steve Hull had his coming out party, making Ron Zook look even more foolish for wasting him as a defensive back all those years. Hull had nine receptions for 230 yards and two TDs. That's the second most receiving yards in a single game for an Illini receiver, behind only A.J. Jenkins' massive game against the Hoosiers the last time the Illini beat a Big Ten opponent.
- Josh Ferguson continues to be the best weapon we have, quietly racking up 91 rushing yards and a TD go with 47 receiving yards as well. Keep up the good work, you miraculous son of a bitch.
- The continued growing pains of the young secondary. It's better for them in the long run to play now, but holy shit does it suck watching the true freshmen just get absolutely abused by savvy wide receivers and offensive coordinators.
- Then again, it's not like the run defense gave them any help. Indiana rushed for 372 yards and wore the defense down like so many body blows to the solar plexus.
- At some point, Tim Beckman and Bill Cubit are going to have to start calling more passing plays for Aaron Bailey. He's only thrown five passes and when he comes in on short yardage downs teams are keying in on him as a runner. He's very talented, but when 11 guys know your running up the gut they stop you on consecutive plays. Like they did today.
- 4th down plays continue to mystify most coaches. In a move that would make Kirk Ferentz wet, Beckman chose to punt on 4th and 3 from the Indiana 33 yard line. Then in the 4th quarter on 4th and 10, chose to run a fake punt. I don't understand either call but I know I hate everything.