Before we begin, TCR would like to congratulate Assistant Editor Aaron Rench and his wife on the birth of their first child. Teach that boy the ILL-INI chant early Aaron, he'll need it in years to come.
Now, onto what happened....
As Shaq Thompson ran back a 52 yard fumble recovery to the endzone, you could actually feel the energy and life being sucked out of the Illini. The defense and special teams had just come up with a big stop on 3rd down forcing the Huskies to punt deep in their own end zone. But when the snap bounced past Korey Durkee and the end line for a safety, a breeze of momentum shifted into the Illini's sails. Two plays later, Thompson was taking Lunt's fumble to the house giving the Huskies a 35-5 lead midway through the 2nd quarter. From that point, the Illini wouldn't catch Washington as the Huskies prevailed 44-19.
Let's break this one down using TCR's Champagne Bottle to rate each position...
(Out of five bottles)
In reality, it was Lunt's two turnovers that ended up costing the Illini early as both his interception and fumble were returned by Shaq Thompson to the endzone. Wes would finish the day 16/26 with 230 yards and 2 Touchdown passes (both to Geronimo Allison who had a heck of a game) and one Interception. Considering we only converted once on third down means our QB's weren't hitting their targets. There were quite a few throws that were over the heads of our receivers all game and should NOT be something we see on a continuous basis.
Once again, the Illini rushing attack failed to exceed 80 yards in a game. This is really really sad considering we have a dual threat in the backfield. Yes, Donovonn Young, Josh Ferguson and Devin Church combined for 134 total yards of offense, but that was not enough to help the Illini get into the endzone or establish the passing game. Also, a fumble on the first drive of the second half all but solidified a Huskie victory. This aspect of the Illini offense really needs to improve if they want to compete once B1G season rolls around.
Three bottles for the receiving crew. Geronimo Allison had a great day with 6 catches for 160 yards and 2 Touchdowns. Add a 5 catch and 43 yard campaign from Mike Dudek and some great plays from Martize Barr and Justin Hardee, and it wasn't a bad outing overall. Improvements are needed in the route running, as there seemed to be some routes that Lunt had trouble connecting with.
Nothing special to write about here. Some blocking issues caused the running game to stall as well as some unnecessary pressure on our Quarterbacks all game. However, it was fun to see Jon Davis pick up a fourth down in the backfield. Just would like to see him be a more integral part of our passing attack with his size.
Lunt was sacked 4 times and the O-Line had their fair share of holding and false start penalties. Yes, there were a few moments of brilliance when our run game picked up and Lunt was given time to throw the ball, but we still need more support up front to get the offense firing on all cylinders.
The D-line would've been given three bottles if it wasn't for the penalties. For the most part, they were able to manage the line of scrimmage and force Cyler Mills to move around in the backfield. But we really, really needed a few more sacks and some better tackling to slow down the Huskie's rushing attack. Overall though, they did a good enough job keeping the opposing rushing attack manageable.
Linebackers and STAR
There were many times in this one where Mason Monheim and company made really good plays to keep the Washington rushing attack under wraps. In order to increase the pressure on opposing running backs and quarterbacks, our linebacking and STAR core need to step up and apply pressure. Not a bad game, but there still is room for improvement.
Keeping the Huskie passing attack under 250 yards of offense is a tough thing to do. With the exception of a few missed coverage assignments that led to some Washington touchdowns, our defensive secondary played a relatively good football game.
Taylor Zalewski was 1/1 after banking his 25 yard Field Goal off the right upright, and he also added 2 more PAT's ending the day 3/3 in total kicking. Justin DuVernois punted 7 times with an average of 51.7 yards a kick. That's pretty darn good, and there certainly were a few times in the game when his leg got the ball out of Illini territory and well into Washington's end of the field. The main blunder that cost the Special Teams two bottles was the kickoff coverage. Washington returned a total of 6 balls for 117 yards which did not help lengthen the field for our defense. In order to improve, they need to become more of a factor defending against the opposition.
Well, this one hurt. Big time. The biggest thing I will say about the coaching staff is that they need to learn how to properly execute an offensive series. When your offense converts 1 of 11 on 3rd downs, there's a serious coaching problem. Part of that my be the players on the field, but they're only as prepared as they are coached to be. The defense kept us in the game, but 3 turnovers were the second part of our struggles in the game.