"I think the West is wide open. If there’s ever a year to win the West, it’s this year...why not Illinois? They’ve got as good a chance as anybody."
Former Illini standout linebacker and current BTN analyst J. Leman sat down with the News-Gazette's Matt Daniels to discuss U of I football this past weekend. Once an key leader on Illinois' 2007 Rose Bowl team, he is now placing his faith in the new football regime, enough so to where he thinks the team can be one of the best in the Big Ten conference.
"I think the West is wide open," Leman said. "If there’s ever a year to win the West, it’s this year. Nebraska has a new coach. Wisconsin has a new coach...Minnesota lost some of their best players...I don’t think Iowa is anything to write home about...I don’t think anybody is picking Purdue to win the West, so why not Illinois? They’ve got as good a chance as anybody. I don’t think Nebraska and Wisconsin are juggernauts, although we have been beaten badly by them in recent years. Not to say we’re better than them, but I think it’s wide open."
Props to the man for sticking up for his alma mater. Even after a dominant week one, it remains to see how competitive the Illini will be in conference play. Illinois' first game against a Big Ten opponent comes on October 3rd when they host the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium.
"I noticed a difference where I was standing. I saw guys flying around. There was a lot of good speed there, I saw good physicality there and that was great to see."
Although Wes Lunt and the Illinois offense got all the love Saturday for putting up big numbers on Kent State, it was the defense that impressed many. One of the worst defenses in the Big Ten last season, the Illini held the Golden Flashes to just 245 yards and a field goal, snagging three interceptions in the process.
"I just liked the way guys tried to take the ball away," co-defensive coordinator Mike Phair said. "That’s been an emphasis that we’ve been talking about, taking the ball away and now we have to score, we’re trying to do that and that’s the next step we need to make."
"Last year, the defense dropped the ball during a lot of games, we didn’t always start fast defensively," said senior linebacker Mason Monheim. "We didn’t necessarily say ‘let’s start fast,’ or that kind of thing, but we wanted to start fast, play fast and finish fast. We just have that great of a group and we’re able to do that."
Volleyball falls to No. 2 Stanford in B1G/Pac 12 Challenge, beats No. 21 Colorado
It was an interesting weekend for Illinois women's volleyball as they dropped three of four sets to the Stanford Cardinals, but then rebounded with a win over the ranked Colorado Buffalos. In Friday's game against Stanford, the Illini committed 23 errors, a poor stat for a team that had committed just 20 in the last two matches combined.
"They are just a better volleyball team right now, but it’s not about right now when it comes time for the NCAA tournament," head coach Kevin Hambly said of the Cardinals. "We’ve seen that we can play with them and I like our chances later on in the year.
The win over Colorado put the Illini back on track, getting the sweep 3-0 and improving to 5-1 on the year. The team now heads out to Wichita, Kansas for the Shocker Volleyball Classic next weekend where they will play South Dakota State, Kentucky, and Wichita State.
Flaws, Illini soccer score win over Portland
The women's soccer team wrapped up a successful road trip out west Sunday with a 1-0 win over Portland. Redshirt senior Jannelle Flaws scored her eighth goal (!!) of the season on a PK with eight minutes left in the match. The Illini are back in Champaign next weekend, hosting Northern Kentucky on Friday, Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. Keep it up ladies!
— Illini Soccer (@IlliniSoccer) September 6, 2015