There were very few, if any, positive takeaways from Saturday's 39-0 drubbing against Penn State. The Illini weren't ready for the game when they came off the bus, and they certainly didn't play with a sense of urgency. Granted, the offense was working without their two of their top three receivers, one running back, and zero usable tight ends, but that performance was pathetic.
Army scored 14 points on this defense. Maryland scored 30 on them. And the defensive line -- the strongest part of the defense -- couldn't get past a Penn State offensive line that gave up 10 sacks to Temple. The effort wasn't there against a beatable opponent. That falls on the coaching staff.
But here are a few bright spots from Illinois' performance:
Tre Watson has been in the linebacker rotation more and more, and he had one of his best games yesterday. I noticed Watson all day because he never quit; he was getting hurries and hustling all game. Frankly, he looked better than some of our starters yesterday. Watson, only a freshman, is going to be a solid linebacker in the middle of the new Illinois defense.
Here's his sack on Christian Hackenburg:
Dionte seems to have picked it up the last two games after having a very quiet start to the season. Ke'Shawn Vaughn had some nice runs and ran hard, but Taylor was really the only player that hurt Penn State in any tangible way; he had 4 catches for 45 yards on the day. With Penn State's cover two taking away Geronimo Allison, Taylor did a nice job stepping up so the Illini could at least have some offense.
Clayton Fejedelem continues to be one of the best players for Illinois as well. He had 13 tackles, 1 TFL, and a forced fumble. But I can't make him player of the game every week.
In other news, Matt Rhule's Temple team looked really good against Notre Dame. He's becoming one of my favorite candidates, and I still think he's still a realistic one. DJ Durkin, Michigan's defensive coordinator, had a so-so night, but his defense was able to stop Minnesota on the 1 yard line for the win.
Please get one of them to Champaign as soon as possible.