Illinois lost to North Carolina 48-14 on Saturday and, naturally, it's a bit hard to award 'player of the game' honors when you lose by that much. But there were a few bright spots (looking at you, Josh Ferguson). Everything else? Not so good. Except for the uniforms -- those were nice.
Players of the game:
Josh Ferguson was the best player on the field for Illinois. North Carolina really had no answer for him. He rushed for 133 yards on 22 carries and punched in Illinois' only touchdown in the first three quarters.
Ferguson was turning 2-yard gains into 6-yard gains just about every time he touched the ball. The Tar Heel's defense had athletes all over the field and No. 6 was making them look foolish. When Illinois sustained long drives into the redzone, it was because of Ferguson and freshman Ke'Shawn Vaughn. Vaughn did a really nice job (13 carries, 51 yards) filling in for Ferguson when he got tired. If the Illini want to rebound and make this a successful season they may need to lean on Ferguson and Vaughn to have 40 carries each time out.
THERE HE GO pic.twitter.com/TzwrwsLTKO— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) September 19, 2015
Yes, this is not a player. But I need to give this spot to the entire unit. Everyone has been talking about the defensive line through the first two games, but their offensive counterparts were better on Saturday. This was a group that seemed shaky in run blocking for the first two weeks and they were provided massive holes for Ferguson. Wes Lunt was also only sacked one time and it was a coverage sack. I would say that's a job well done by this unit.
Pretty good pic.twitter.com/UEbTH4JVZh— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) September 19, 2015
The run game will be the key to success in during Big Ten season. Frankly, I think the Illini should have run the ball more yesterday; UNC had no answer and they were successfully halting the passing attack. When North Carolina went up 20+ points it was obviously the right move to throw the ball more, but I think Illinois should have devoted more effort to the ground attack leading up to that.
Eaton Spence probably had one of his best games ever in the Orange and
Blue White yesterday. He came up with a nice interception to regain momentum in the first quarter and he also batted down a ball on a key third down. The Tar Heels decided to attack Spence early on, and he stepped up and held down the fort.