That was a nice change of pace on Saturday wasn't it? That was what was supposed to happen in the season opener against Southern Illinois. The Illini were playing an inferior opponent, and for once, they treated their opponent as such.
It was great. From the two point conversion to the ensuing onside kick and the 29-point outburst in the second quarter that just buried the Redhawks, I enjoyed the hell out of it. I also enjoyed seeing that 50 on the scoreboard even if the Illini probably could have had 70 points if not for turnovers and taking a knee in the fourth quarter.
But even then, the Illini showed mercy to an opponent, and in order to do that you have to be in position to show mercy.
We were in position to take pity on somebody!
But what does it all mean? What should we take away from this performance?
Well, in truth, nothing. The only feeling we should have taken away from this game would have been concern if the Illini struggled with this team. They did not.
As a result, I'm somewhat relieved. I was worried that the Illini would have trouble running the ball against a terrible run defense just because the offensive line hasn't been able to get much push off the ball in the run game this season. Well, they got push off the ball on Saturday. I routinely saw Illini linemen driving Redhawk defenders backward and opening huge holes.
Because of it the Illini rushed for 289 yards and averaged 6.7 yards per carry. It was far and away the best rushing performance of the season as Josh Ferguson rushed for 71 yards -- he also caught five passes for 77 yards and a touchdown -- and Donovonn Young had 80 yards. Together Ferguson and Young averaged 7.95 yards per carry, and that'll work.
Seriously, on offense, when you get 600 yards and put 50 points on the board and your quarterback is setting career highs and school records in the first half, it's hard to find anything to be worried about. And I'm not. I was somewhat annoyed with the Bill Cubit shenanigans at times, particularly in the red zone, but I understand the purpose of it. At the same time, there's putting things on tape for your opponent to prepare for, and then there's putting things on tape for your opponent to prepare for that will now no longer catch them by surprise.
It's possible the Illini might have needed one of those trick plays to beat Nebraska on the road next week. They did not need them to beat Miami on Saturday in Champaign.
As for the other side of the ball, there really wasn't anything we saw on defense that we didn't already know. The pass rush was non-existent, though so was the Miami passing game, and it's hard to get a pass rush when your opponent isn't passing all that often.
The tackling was poor at times, but again, that's nothing new.
Still, it's somewhat important to remember that Miami only managed 250 yards of offense in this game, and 148 of those yards and both of those touchdowns came after the Illini had built a 36-0 lead. Oh, and one of those touchdowns wasn't really a touchdown.
The only true regret I saw from the Illini defense yesterday was Jaylen Dunlap dropping what would have been an easy pick-six. Not because it would have mattered in the game, but because I think it would have been a nice confidence boost to both Dunlap and the defense in general to put some points on the board.
So I guess, at the end of the day, we didn't really learn a damn thing about the Illini during this rout. The offense has the capability of putting a lot of points on the board when Nathan Scheelhaase is comfortable in the pocket, and the defense has plenty of flaws, though their opponent wasn't really able to exploit them.
So we're exactly where we were before the game, only now we have more wins in the first month of this season than we did all of last year. Which is pretty great, I'm not going to lie. But things are about to get a lot tougher from here on out.
Though unlike last season I'm looking forward to it.
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