At halftime Illinois trailed Iowa by only four points. The Illinois offense was much improved with Jeff George Jr. at QB, and the offense was playing with a new sense of moxie and poise.
Than the second half started and Illinois was outscored 28-3 on their way to a 45-16 loss.
It would be easy to let the second half disaster overshadow the first half, but there are some positives to take away. It is a disappointing result of course, but the team showed improvement and the playcalling was better on offense. The team is frankly a couple of years away from competing against a decent Iowa team on the road.
I’ll say it again (and every week if I have to), Illinois is the youngest team in the country and is starting the most true freshman in the history of the program. It’s not a team that is designed to go on the road at Kinnick Stadium and pick up a win. Not yet.
This is what rebuilding looks like. All we can hope is that this time the rebuild works.
The is slippery so far today in Iowa City.@IlliniFootball grabs it right back from Iowa, as Patrick Nelson comes up with the fumble: pic.twitter.com/pFDAnNbKas— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 7, 2017
.@IlliniFootball is up to somethin'.@Dat26Kid gashed the defense for a huge run, and it led to an Illinois touchdown: pic.twitter.com/0URlBIVCLN— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 7, 2017
Nate Hobbs = sack machine pic.twitter.com/PTFuMgkhLt— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) October 7, 2017
Ricky Smalling showing some A+ #GUAGI on this play. Great catch.— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) October 7, 2017
(CC: @MattSpiegel670) pic.twitter.com/ejdQdGhF11
Jeff George Jr. provided a spark, and a lot of turnovers.
It’s nice to have a QB who can actually throw the football down the field a bit, huh? George Jr was able to make some plays and his ability to stretch the defense vertically opened up some room for the running game.
BUT, he had a huge issue with turnovers today. George Jr. had three interception — one of which was a pick six — and a lost fumble. He made some very questionable throws and Iowa was able to take advantage in the second half.
Still he is the best option that Illinois has going forward (Cam Thomas maybe?), and is a clear upgrade over Chayce Crouch. Illinois will have to the the good — being able to actually throw the ball downfield — with the bad — turnovers
The Illinois offensive line looked the best it has all year with 4 freshman starters.
Unlike other weeks, I never had a moment where I said “Wow, this might be the worst offensive line in major college football”. The line run blocked pretty well, and kept George Jr upright for the most part. They weren’t good, but they were serviable, minus the penalties — including one that took a TD off the board.
And this was with four freshman starters! This line could develop into a really good unit in a couple of years.
We need to stay patient.
I know that many are starting to get the feeling that Illinois Football will never turn it around, and with yet another blowout loss I can’t blame anyone for thinking that. We come in with low expectations and even those are often not met.
But we need to hang in there. This team was torn down to nothing under Tim Beckman and the one year of Bill Cubit. The team as it stands simply is not good enough to compete each and every week at a high level in the Big Ten.
Focus on the future. Look at the young players making some plays on both sides of the ball. See how Garrick McGee is starting to build an identity to the offense. The defense is also full of young studs. This is the year it will come all together, but if we stay patient, this group may just surprise us in a couple of years.
Up next, Illinois will play Rutgers on Saturday, October 14 at 11 am in Champaign. The game will be aired on the Big Ten Network.