So we're still in the single digit days of September and the Illinois Fighting Illini have already matched last season's win total and have taken a great amount of pressure off Tim Beckman's shoulders. The much-maligned coach finally earned his first victory over an AQ opponent at Illinois with the team's 45-17 stomping of the Cincinnati Bearcats. And yes, it's the same Bearcats squad that decimated the Purdue Boilermakers last week.
Worst team in the Big Ten this year? Guys, it's not us.
A combination of fantastic play calling by offensive guru Bill Cubit, Cincinnati continually taking aim at their own feet via penalties, and some questionable decisions by the referees/gifts from the football gods resulted in this week's win. The Illini jumped out to a 21-7 lead at the half, but as seems to be tradition, came out flat in the second half almost letting the Bearcats back in the game. Note the almost. On a ridiculously long drive, Tommy Tuberville elected to go for it on 4th and goal instead of taking the safe three from a field goal. The field goal would have made it an 8 point game. Munchie Legaux scrambled and appeared to get the touchdown. But then the booth reviewed it, noticed he fumbled the ball into the end zone and the Illini went on to drive 99 yards for their own touchdown, essentially putting the game fully out of reach. To the bullet points!
- The Nathan Scheelhaase career revival continues. The senior went 26-37 for 310 yards and four touchdowns, with zero interceptions. Those four touchdowns match his total from the entirety of last season. That's insane. His 726 yards this season is already past the halfway point of last year's yardage. Enjoy the ride.
- One of the main concerns from last week's game was the lack of a running game. This week? 212 rushing yards. Donovonn Young (67 yards, 4.5 avg) and Josh Ferguson (44 yards, 5.5 avg) both looked great and the team used multiple end arounds that seemed to confound Cincinnati to no end.
- He's no Arrelious Benn or A.J. Jenkins, but Martize Barr is rapidly becoming a fun player to keep an eye on. The JUCO transfer hauled in five passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. Add in the 24 yard rush he had and all things are now gravy.
- Taylor Zalewski was a perfect 6 for 6 on extra points and nailed his one field goal try from 19 yards out.
- Really not too much to cover down here. Justin DuVernois had one bad 20 yard punt, but on the whole made up for it with his other four punts.
- The secondary needs work. Yes, they're young, but they allowed 307 yards today. The defense as a whole gave up 455 yards, which isn't going to work so well when conference play starts.We won a shootout, despite what the scoreboard shows.
- Cincinnatti's 74 yard TD drive in the second quarter. This might seem like I'm picking nits, but Cincy's quarterbacks rushed six times on this drive and the defense seemed to have no way of stopping it. That makes me nervous about what Braxton Miller will do against us.
- Munchie Legaux's leg injury. I'm not sure why ESPN2 felt the need to keep showing it or linger on his sideways leg as long as they did, but there was no need for it. His season is probably over and we wish him all the best in his recovery. That being said, I am very proud of Tim Beckman's handling of the situation. Beckman was the first person out there for the injured Legaux, covering his legs with a towel and comforting him til the training staff and Cincinnati coaches could get to him. He may be a bit of a buffoon, but he's a good guy and it's always fun to cheer for those.