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Illinois 42, Texas State 35: Once Again, Escape

The Fighting Illini dominated the second half in a nerve-wracking 42-35 win over the Texas State Bobcats.

Michael Hickey

In place of Primiano, I'll be doing the quick recap today. I think everybody wants to move on from this game as soon as possible, so let's get right down to it.

Il buono:

  • Josh Ferguson. The man was a machine today, taking 13 carries for 115 yards and two touchdowns. I'm not even including the "run" play that he had on the first drive of the game: a screen pass that went all the way for a 75-yard touchdown. He good.
  • V'Angelo Bentley. V'Angelo was responsible for one touchdown on a pick six to put Illinois up 42-28 with just a few minutes left in the game. That was an incredible play, but not his only fantastic one of the day. Bentley also had a 40-yard punt return that set up an eventual Illinois touchdown. Both were huge plays, and it seems fair to say that Bentley is the main man responsible for the two scores.
  • Wes Lunt...eventually. After an abysmal first quarter throwing into some truly awful wind, Lunt caught fire and confidently led the Illini to touchdowns on their next few drives. He did throw one interception, but the way he fought back from a terrible start was admirable.
  • Mike Dudek was invisible this week. Texas State had no answer for him as he finished with seven receptions for 90 yards and an important late touchdown.
  • The defense in the second half. The Illini defense held Texas State to 14 points in the second half, with those two drives being a 13-yard one after an interception and a 75-yard one in near-garbage time. Aside from that, Illinois did a great job of adjusting to Texas State's dink-and-dunk offense after the bad start. There was a ton of pressure from the defensive line today.
  • They won.
Il cattivo:
  • Yet again, the Illini got off to a horrible start. Texas State nickeled and dimed their way down the field with ease as the Illini continuously over-pursued on option plays. The offense sputtered out of the gates because of Bill Cubit's strange belief that the Illini should ever line up under center. News flash to Bill: they shouldn't.
  • Third downs were a major struggle against Washington last week and the Illini were terrible in that area again today, both offensively and defensively. Texas State converted ten of their 21 first downs on the day while Illinois converted just four of 13. The Illini did a better job on first and second down today than Washington, but obviously this is a much lower level of competition.
Il bruto:
  • The refs called an absolutely horrendous targeting call against Earnest Thomas III and ejected him from the game. The Texas State receiver lowered his head to brace for impact and initiated contact with ET3, whose helmet never went down. ET3 used his arms to bring down the WR and was then called for the penalty. Even worse, the call was upheld under review.
  • The weather delay was brutal. It may or may not have helped the Illini, but there should not have been a two-hour long delay regardless. I was at the game-- the sun came out and the clouds dissipated one and a quarter hours before the game began again. This resulted in the entire crowd leaving and the Illini never having a quarter with the win at their back.
Bottom line: it's a win. It's a bad win. It's a depressing win. Bowl game eligibility is a long way off, but there are still a couple good things about this team. Hopefully they can put better games together in the future or Big Ten teams will blow their doors off.

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