I'm not as concerned as other people with the game yesterday. Illinois defeated a good Middle Tennessee team that possessed an explosive, veteran offense. There are a lot of things to fix, but a win is a win. And hey, next week Illinois' got a Nebraska team that comes limping into Champaign after a rough non-conference schedule. Let's see what Bill Cubit can do.
Players of the game:
1. Dawuane Smoot
Dawuane Smoot was a beast yesterday, and really has been all season. He racked up 3 TFLs, two of them sacks (both career highs). Smoot was in the backfield constantly yesterday and was a force on the opposite side of Jihad Ward. The best part? He's only a junior. Getting pressure on the quarterback will be huge in conference play and if Smoot keeps up this level of play the defensive line could be scary.
2. Ke'Shawn Vaughn
Vaughn has officially declared himself the No. 2 back. Josh Ferguson cramped up in the second half, but Vaughn filled the void in a major way. He rushed for a career high 80 yards on 13 attempts, and finished it off with a big touchdown. Vaughn is a great combination of speed and power. He breaks through the hole, and then drags a guy or two for a couple more yards after contact. He is going to be fun to watch the next couple years.
I would've liked to see Illinois run it more (Lunt threw 49 times) on Saturday, because Middle Tennessee couldn't stop it. It'll be interesting to see if the Illini can get the ground attack going against a bigger, stronger Cornhuskers team to supplement the passing game.
3. Desmond Cain
The true freshman out of Florida had his best game on Saturday. Desmond Cain was all over the field catching, catching 7 balls for a total of 48 yards. He was clearly Lunt's second go-to option behind Geronimo Allison.
Cain really caught my eye. He made the first defender miss nearly every single time he caught the ball. And yes, he did catch the ball, which has been a struggle for the Illinois receivers thus far. He's caught quite a few passes through these first four games, but Marchie Murdock still seems to be ahead of him. We'll we see if he can change that over the course of the season.