Believe it or not, life is made up of moments. Multiple ones. Some are big, some are unimportant, some even happen on Tuesdays. A team in college football produces several hundred moments, very rarely occurring on Tuesdays.
Let's take a look back at both the best and the worst -- the most memorable moments of 2014.
Pick One: Best Moment of Mike Dudek Being Amazing
You have a favorite Dudek catch -- it's impossible not to. If we went back and created a playlist of the Top 5 Catches of the season, Dudek would be all of them. He was a firework finale on a quarter of all passing plays, contorting his body to land in-bounds, contorting his body more to land in-bounds and then take one step forward to get the first down, or making unbelievable touchdown receptions over a well-placed Iowan defender. He was ridiculous, and he very well produced the best instantaneous moment of the 2014 season.
Best Moment of Despair (In-Game)
The lightning delay during the Texas State game was a dark, dark time. The Illini were nursing a 14-6 deficit after starting the game as horrendously as possible -- nothing from the game to that point could even be considered acceptable. So we sat there for a long time brewing in thoughts of futility and fear. Is this what the season is going to look like? We've waited three years for this? Beckman's a fool! Then the Illini allowed TSU to score, making it 21-6, and also magnifying the pessimism created during the storm. It would turn out to be nothing as the Illini won 42-35, but it was too close.
Best Moment of Despair (Out-of-Game)
After losing to Purdue, there were even worse things being said than after the Texas State game. Approximately everyone gave up on Beckman at that point. Losing to Purdue hurt because the Boilermakers resembled a 2013 Illini team, rebuilding from the bottom up with no right whatsoever to beat another B1G team. They were bad, and they didn't win another game all season, finishing 3-9, the worst record in the conference.
Best Moment to Look Back On and Remember Despair
After losing to Wisonsin, it still felt as if life after Beckman would become true. There were five games left and the Illini were 3-4. From there, Beckman coached better than he's ever coached (at least, in the majority of those games) and the Illini beat Minnesota, Penn State and the rival Northwestern. That was the lowest point of the roller coaster, or the highest, depending on how you view the height/excitement factor. (Cause, you know, everything after the hill is awesome.)
Best Moment of Tim Beckman being the Tim Beckman Character We've All Come to Possibly Accept
If we run the table, we end up with nine wins.
Our coach, the one-and-only Tim Beckman, has many different talents; press conferences are not one of them. After losing to Purdue, very possibly the worst team in the conference, Beckman tried to defuse the situation, but blind hope like this doesn't usually come from the head coach. However, Beckman is not your normal head coach. I've learned to just accept his PR inabilities, embrace it, and laugh. It'll makes the offseason way more enjoyable.
If you look at the second half, we won.
Best Moment of Face-Melting Joy
I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with my brother and some Minnesota farmer in burgundy overalls as the Illini finished upsetting the Gophers. My brother doesn't really care about sports, and the Minnesota guy obviously wasn't happy, but the rest of Memorial Stadium was overflowing with satisfaction and palpable relief.
It was a quality win, representing something Illini fans hadn't seen in years. It was pride. Pride you could hold on to and know that no matter what happened during the rest of the season, or even the next few years, we had something that we could look back on and smile.
That win has only gotten sweeter with time. This year's Minnesota was one of the best Gopher team in decades and the fact that we beat them with a backup quarterback in grey jerseys will never, ever get old.
Best Moment of Laughing at Another Team's Misfortune
Best Personal Moment for Me
The Washington game. No, seriously, as horrible as that game was, I was more happy than I'd been in ever. See, my wife had just given birth to our first kid the night before. The small hospital TV showed the game while I sat in a uncomfortable chair holding my son and sipping on a Steak n' Shake milkshake. I don't remember the game at all, but I'll never forget that. Simple but perfect.
Best Moment that Took Three Seasons to Get To
Winning a bowl game shouldn't be this rare, but the feeling of qualifying after such a long time is fantastic. We're talking a win-or-go-change-your-program victory over the in-state rivals that pushed them into obscurity and us into a spotlight. We're going bowling!