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Louisiana Tech 35, Illinois 18: Season's Endings

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The Illini almost pulled off the comeback, but ultimately came up short in one of the more confusing seasons of Illini football ever.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Welp. When Louisiana Tech's kicker slipped on the opening kickoff, you could tell the theme for today's game was going to be slapstick. I'm still trying to figure out how the Illini beat Minnesota back in October because it seems to make less and less sense every week. Oh well.

Il buono

  • Reilly O'Toole. The Wheaton Winger finished his career on a high note, going 24-39 for 295 yards with one TD and one INT. His Illini career certainly didn't go the way he hoped it would, but at least he had his redemption run.
  • The deadly receiving hydra. Mike Dudek picked up 73 receiving yards (and 50 rushing), giving him 1,038 receiving yards on the season. As a freshman. Malik Turner had 84 yards on six catches and Geronimo Allison had 72 on 4. These three should all have great seasons next fall.

Il cattivo

  • The defense against wheel routes. I don't know what it is about that specific play, but it is one of our seemingly eight million kryptonites. Mason Monheim and Dewayne Smoot both wound up covering LA Tech players much faster then they are and the Bulldogs exploited that for 150 yards on two plays.

Il bruto

  • Jihad Ward's decision making. Not a banner day for Ward. He picked up a roughing the passer penalty on what would have been a drive killing third down incompletion. He would go on to trump this by recovering a fumble and then fumbling away the fumble in the brief span of five seconds. That was the turning point in this game.
  • The kicking game. This needs to be addressed fiercely in the offseason. Two more missed field goals and another missed PAT? We miss you Derek Dimke/Jason Reda/Neil Rackers.
  • The officiating. Things calmed down in the second half, but holy shit that first half. Earnest Thomas III's "interference" penalty was bad enough, but the pick six that never should have been was a backbreaker. Let's take a look at this screengrab from @IllinoisLoyalty.

Somehow not pass interference. And then the ignored block in the back on the return. What a game. And this crew will somehow handle the Sugar Bowl as well.