Well that wasn’t great.
Western Michigan controlled the line of scrimmage on offense and bullied the Illini to the tune of _ rushing yards on _ carries. On the other side of the ball, Illinois couldn’t run the ball — it had just one yard in the first half — and left too many opportunities on the field to get more points. Wes Lunt was not sharp today, and the Illini couldn’t run the ball against a MAC team.
Here are three things we learned from the 34-10 loss on Saturday.
Wes Lunt is Captain Checkdown
The quarterback is an easy target for a lot of reasons, so it’s easy to blame Wes Lunt for Illinois’ offensive struggles in its two games against FBS opponents. I think the receivers deserve a lot of the blame because no one on this roster can consistently get open, but Lunt is so adverse to throwing interceptions that it hurts the team because he won’t push the ball down the field. A prime example was early in the fourth quarter, when Lunt dropped off a checkdown on 3rd and 9 while trailing by 17 points. I get that you don’t want to turn the ball over, but at a certain point you have to push the ball upfield to get back into the game. Another example was the Illini’s two-minute drill just before halftime. With under a minute left, Lunt completed three passes for seven yards, six yards, and one yard, respectively. You have to move the ball down the field in that situation — especially before halftime where there is limited risk. It just seems like Lunt doesn’t change his decision-making for different time and score, down and distance situations, and it really hurts this Illinois team’s chances to put points on the board.
As a bright note, Carroll Phillips is really, really good
Even though Dawuane Smoot gets all of the attention of a potential NFL first round draft pick, but Phillips has been incredible at times this season, including Saturday where he recorded eight tackles, three tackles for loss, and two sacks. If Illinois can get Smoot going, its pass rush will be one of the best in the conference. Unfortunately, the Illini couldn’t stop the run, so Phillips was a nonfactor for much of the second half.
Any dreams of a bowl game are gone
It’s a tough pill to swallow midway through September, but this Illinois team has no chance of making a bowl game. Loviemania in the offseason talked many Illinois supporters into a six or even seven win season, but after seeing how the Illini got mauled physically by the Broncos, it will be hard to see this team winning more than three games this season. No one said rebuilding the Illini was going to be easy, but the road to relevancy is much longer than many hoped.