There are many who claim that there are no such things as “moral victories” in sports. I tend to agree, but I do think there are times where perspective is needed. The Illinois defense should be proud of how they played today.
The Illini held the #5 Badgers to 303 total yards and 4.7 yards per play. Jonathan Taylor getting injured sure helped, but Illinois stood up to the challenge provided to them today and performed admirably. The defense kept Illinois in the game against a top 10 opponent. Hats off to them, especially Del’Shawn Phillips, who may have been the best player on the field for either team today.
I wish I could say similar things about the offense, but yet again this week there are few positives to bring for their performance.
Illinois did run for the most yards against Wisconsin of any of their opponents this season — 154 yards — largely thanks to Cam Thomas’ 78 rushing yards on 10 carries.
However, the team did struggle to turn those yards into sustained drives and scores due to turnovers and untimely penalties. The team turned the ball over three times (2 INTs, 1 Fumble).
What continued to be the main issues for Illinois on offense are the same issues they have been dealing with all season — quarterback play and offensive line play. Jeff George Jr. and Thomas combined to go 9/31 for 152 yards passing. The offensive line gave up five sacks and many more pressures. If you can’t succeed at one of those two spots, you will have a tough time scoring on offense. If you struggle with both.....well....
So again, we knew Illinois was a bad football team with a lot of work to do, but take solace that the team overperformed expectations against a top 5 undefeated opponent. Losing 24-10 looks better than it really was. The team can take many positives into upcoming games against Purdue and Indiana as they look to pick up a Big Ten win.
But there is still a long way to go with this Illinois offense. It will improve, but it may just not be this season.