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Game Recap Nebraska 45 Illinois 14: And Now We Move On

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The Illini opened up the Big Ten season with a blowout loss to Nebraska, but there were some good signs.

Ameer Abdullah looking up to see his rushing yards
Ameer Abdullah looking up to see his rushing yards
Eric Francis

It was my birthday yesterday so I volunteered to do the game recap. Illinois didn't give me a very good birthday present. Things are a little different today. Usually we have two recaps after the game: Mark's instant recap, then an extended recap from Aaron. Well today, you're going to see a little different: I'm just going to be doing some bullets points and kind of a mix of both those posts. On to the actual recap:

  • Let's start with some actual positives, which were mostly at the beginning of the game. Illinois' uniforms looked so much better than Nebraska's. The orange-white-orange look made the Illini look like Clemson from a distance, but you could see the Illinois elements from up close. Nebraska helmets looked like someone poured some sauce on half of them. What was with the black on the bottom? Their color was gross and Illinois' colors popped out.
  • The Illini gave up a quick touchdown early and things were not looking good for us. But then.. Reilly O'Toole trots onto the field and leads the Illini down the field! Josh Ferguson is running everywhere! Reilly O'Toole will lead the team to victory in Lincoln! It was a great opening drive for the Illini and the first game all season where they actually started off fast. It was encouraging to see and I was starting to think O'Toole was better than I anticipated. O'Toole hit Geronimo Allison on a beautiful completion down the field to get Illinois going early in the drive. Then holes were opening up for Ferguson that we hadn't seen since last year, and next thing we knew he was into the end zone: Nebraska 7, Illinois 7. Hopefully the Illini will continue to put together fast starts in the Big Ten season.
  • The defense looked encouraging after forcing the first of two early turnovers. Maybe Tim Banks is finally having some success creating turnovers and getting pressure on the quarterback. The pick was the result of a nice play from T.J. Neal and set up the Illini offense to score again and possibly contend with the Cornhuskers.
  • The offense actually had a good drive, which was largely overshadowed by the redzone interception. On 3rd and 12,  O'Toole threw a great screen to Ferguson, who was tripped up at the one yard line. If he had been able to score on that play, it might have changed the course of the game.
  • Quickness was working for the Illini early, but they went too quick down in the redzone. They tried to get another open hole for Ferguson on the first play, but it only gained half a yard.Then they took about 10 seconds to get the next snap off and the result of the play was a bad run call and a loss of yardage. We all know what happened on third down. It was a good job of O'Toole to escape the pressure (something he did much better than Lunt), but then he should have just thrown the ball away and taken a 10-7 lead. This helped Nebraska gain more confidence and Illinois could have been in the game longer had they not thrown that pick. Also, the offense was going so fast that the defense had barely any time to stay off the field.
  • Mason Monheim came up big for the Illini when he was able to strip Imani Cross and get the football back for the offense. This defense has shown that they can create turnovers, something they could not last year.
  • That was about it for the positives. Ameer Abdullah did what he was expected to do and tore up our D. The defense didn't look as bad as last year, where anybody could run through gaping holes all the time, but there were still some of those plays.
  • Does anybody know if the Illini have tight ends? There have been several plays this year where Matt LaCosse has been wide open but ignored by the QBs. One of those was the TD to Geronimo Allison, so that worked out, but usually it hasn't. Cubit hasn't used either of the tight ends nearly as much as last year. Let's take a look at just how little he's used them.
Stats (through 5 games) Jon Davis 2014 Jon Davis 2013 Matt LaCosse 2014 Matt LaCosse 2013 Totals
Receptions 6 12 5 7 Davis: -6 LaCosse: -2
Yards 56 98 53 124 Davis: -42 LaCosse: -73
TD 1 2 0 2 Davis: -1 LaCosse: -
  • Bo Pelini's Cat. 'Nough said

So is it Cubit? Lunt? The tight ends? Lunt sometimes stares down receivers and these guys usually aren't the main route. Hopefully we can see them get some balls against Purdue.

To conclude, the Illini didn't play well but there were a few signs that they might be able to take down Purdue. So let's focus on that this week.