clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Illinois Coaching Search Update: P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan fall to Michigan State

New, 3 comments

How did potential candidates' teams fare in Week 1?

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

It's no secret that Illinois is already beginning to look for a new head coach following the abrupt firing of Tim Beckman one week before the beginning of the 2015 season. Interim coach Bill Cubit is certainly a candidate to keep the job, especially if his team continues to win, but athletic director Mike Thomas is undoubtedly compiling a list of his own. If you missed our post from last week, we detailed many potential replacements. Now it's time to take a look and see how those candidates' teams fared after the first week of the new season.

P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan (0-1)

Week 1 Result: Loss, 37-24 against Michigan State

The Broncos stuck around with the fifth-ranked team in the country much longer than most anticipated. They were within 10 points late in the fourth quarter before MSU quarterback Connor Cook led the team down the field for a field goal that put the game out of reach. While Fleck's Broncos weren't able to pull off the monumental upset, his stock is consistently rising. Western Michigan and Fleck are definitely a team worth keeping your eye on.

Justin Fuente, Memphis (1-0)

Week 1 Result: Win, 63-7 against Missouri State

The Tigers, fresh off their first bowl win since 2005, blew out Missouri State in their season opener. They outrushed the Bears 317 yards to 18, and the offense, which has become a staple in Memphis under Fuente, continued to click. They didn't look back after leading 42-0 at the half. The Tigers will be taking on Kansas this week, and if you know anything about the Jayhawks football program, you know that Fuente's team will likely be 2-0 after Saturday's matchup.

Dino Babers, Bowling Green (0-1)

Week 1 Result: Loss, 59-30 against Tennessee

Babers was a name that had been brought up after Ron Zook was let go back in 2011. Another MAC coach, Babers' Bowling Green team opened the year with a disappointing 29 point loss on the road in Knoxville. It was only a 35-27 game early in the third quarter, but after a lengthy lightning delay abruptly halted play, the Falcons weren't able to recover. Next week Bowling Green travels to Maryland, another tough road game, followed up by a matchup at home versus Memphis and another Illini coaching candidate, Justin Fuente.

Mark Hudspeth, UL-Lafayette (0-1)

Week 1 Result: Loss, 40-33 against Kentucky

The Ragin' Cajuns put up a fight on the road against the Wildcats. Down 33-10 late in the third quarter, Hudspeth's team rushed for three touchdowns in less than ten minutes of game time to tie Kentucky. But then with 57 seconds left, UK running back Mikel Horton dashed into the endzone from twelve yards out to seal a narrow win against UL-Lafayette. Despite the loss to open the season, Hudspeth's team certainly passed the eye test. While his name isn't brought up as frequently as those listed above in the Illinois coaching search, the Ragin' Cajuns will be a team to watch throughout the 2015 season.

Ken Niumatalolo, Navy (1-0)

Week 1 Result: Win, 48-10 against Colgate

Another name that isn't as familiar to the casual fan, Navy's Ken Niumatalolo has led the Midshipmen to six winning seasons in his seven years at the helm of their program. This past Saturday they completed a dominant victory over FCS opponent Colgate, as they put up nearly 440 yards of offense and five touchdowns. A big test for Niumatalolo's squad comes in a little under a month from now when they travel to South Bend to face Notre Dame. His stock will continue to rise if he can keep Navy in the win column.

Bo Pelini, Youngstown State (0-1)

Week 1 Result: Loss, 45-37 against Pittsburgh

It's been a strange calendar year for Penguins head coach Pelini. 365 days ago today he was celebrating a win against McNeese State with 80,000 of his closest friends in Nebraska's Memorial Stadium. Now he is coping with a narrow defeat on the road in Pittsburgh, where about 200 Youngstown fans made to the trek to watch his Penguins play their season opener. His current job is certainly a step down on the national stage from his previous one, but that doesn't make Pelini any worse of a head coach. If he can turn Youngstown State around this year he will be getting some calls, maybe even from Champaign, this coming offseason.

Brock Spack, Illinois State (0-1)

Week 1 Result: Loss, 31-14 against Iowa

The Redbirds went to the FCS Championship game under Spack last season and lost in heartbreaking fashion to repeat-champion North Dakota State. While Spack's name isn't on the radar for Illinois fans as much as some of the coaches listed above, he has consistently improved the Redbirds program since his arrival in 2009 and has never finished less than third in the Missouri Valley conference. Plus, he's Ron Swanson in a suit:

Rod Carey, Northern Illinois (1-0)

Week 1 Result: Win, 38-30 against UNLV

The Huskies had to mount a come-from-behind win against the Runnin' Rebels at home this past weekend. Down 17-3 late in the second quarter, Northern Illinois went on to outscore UNLV 28-10 in the second half to take home an eight-point victory. Carey's squad put up 545 yards of total offense, and while his name isn't mentioned as frequently as others on this list, it's time to take a look at what he's put together in DeKalb. The Huskies will face a humungous test in a few weeks when they travel to Columbus to take on the first-ranked Buckeyes.

If you're keeping track, that's a 3-5 record after Week One for the potential Illini coaching replacements. Think we've left anybody off the list? Drop by in the comments below and tell us what you think!