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#AskTCR: Coach Underwood & Marching Bands vs. Kickers


Ohio State v Illinois Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

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Knowing that this year would be ROUGH for football, I was sitting on the “orange kool-aid-fueled” delusion that Illinois could string together 4 wins this season. WHILE IT IS STILL POSSIBLE (we’re coming for you Urban & Fitzy), it’s not likely. What does that mean for next season?

Realistically, Illinois should win 4 games. If we’re putting Lovie on the Tim B(gags)...sorry, the Tim Beck(gags)...(heavy breathing)...the Tim Beckman timeline, he should win six games in his third season. Given that Lovie is working with the lineup he has, let’s pardon him back one season in the timeline and give him a benchmark of four wins. We’ll take wins over Kent State, Western Illinois, and two wins over Rutgers/Purdue/Maryland/Minnesota. Expect Cam Thomas to be the starting QB, and for him to either save Garrick McGee’s job, or get him fired.

Only if WCIA carries their broadcast to “Almost Wisconsin” so fans like me can watch the game. Shoutout to Bret Beherns and the WCIA crew...they’re good people.

Illinois football is as plagued by fire extinguishers and shortened second half warm-ups as they are by flags thrown because the band is playing after the huddle is broken.

A funny story involving football teams warming up when the band is on the field, I have had three REALLY good run-ins with kickers during my time in the Marching Illini.

1) During halftime of the Illinois - Minnesota game in 2010, Minnesota kicker Eric Ellestad trotted onto the field as we (the band) hit our final mark during the “3 in 1”. I was in the front of the first “L” in “ILLINI” and had turned to face the east side of Memorial Stadium to play the Alma mater. As we started playing, Ellestad walked to about the 35 yard line and began kicking field goals towards the south goalposts (horseshoe/scoreboard side). Watching him warm-up, I noticed he was placing the kicking tee directly in line with where I would be walking as we march off the field. As we (the band) were wrapping up the last few measures of the “3 in 1”, Ellestad was teeing up another ball. Naturally, I saw the potential opportunity that had presented itself and decided to take action.

Dr. Griffin (the director of the Marching Illini at the time) blew his whistle signaling us to leave the field, and Ellestad saw he was about to be approached by 300 band members. Ellestad retreated to an open space on the field, somewhere around the 10-15 yard line near the south endzone and LEFT THE BALL ON THE TEE. Holding my direction of travel as we marched off, I put my right foot into the ball as hard as I could WHILE managing to play the fight song AND keeping in step. As we finished the fight song from the sidelines, I turned to see Ellestad looking helplessly for the football he had left tee’d up. My antics did nothing for the Illini, as they eventually lost the game 38-34.

2) One of the “less-known” traditions in college football resides during halftime of the Texas Bowl. The bands from both schools form a star at midfield and play “Deep in the heart of Texas” to close the halftime festivities. This generally makes halftime run a little longer, but it also cuts into the “warm-up time” teams have. So as we finished playing this song at the 2010 Texas Bowl and began coming off the field, Derek Dimke (a friend of the MI and one of my favorite kickers in Illini history) ran out to start his warm-up for the second half. As he was heading my way, we high-fived and gave each other a “LET’S GO” as we crossed paths (you can see it start to happen at the end of this video on the left side of your screen). Illinois would defeat RGIII’s Baylor Bears 38-14, marking the first bowl win since the 1999 bowl.

3) While this one didn’t happen on the field at halftime, it did happen as we were lining up to take the field for halftime. Illinois played Fresno St on December 5th 2009, in a wind chill of 6°. Cold and miserable over a shootout with FRESNO STATE, we lined up behind the Illinois’ bench minutes before halftime. Standing near Derek Dimke (my guy) and the kicking net, a senior trumpet player named Tim asked Dimke if he could try and kick a ball into the net (he’s a senior, it’s his last game, Illinois is 3-8, why not shoot your shot?). Dimke agreed to give him one shot at it, and Tim did not disappoint. With the ball not even 5 yards away from the net, Tim cold-shanked it left of the intended target and straight into some band members and a BTN camera crew. Dimke was rolling on the turf laughing. Illinois lost 53-52 on a freak two-point conversion to finish the season 3-9.

(Shoutout to our contributor Stephen Braun and his post-game review videos)

I’ll put in a good word with the big guy, let’s make that happen. Maybe eggnog loaded with Malört?

Underwood is intimidating as hell, and I LOVE it. A head coach that has done nothing but talk about X’s and O’s and strategies with the media and not his grandma’s radio already has a leg up over his predecessors. I feel like he’s our version of Will Muschamp that punches chalkboards when he’s trying to get his point across. Let’s set the chair kicking over/under at 5.5 this season.

I feel like Brad Underwood is the guy that has VIP access to all the things people HATE doing. Grocery shopping? He’s got his own cart that has four functioning wheels (no squeaky ones). DMV? He’s got a fastpass.

Legend has it that Underwood’s shoes don’t stick to the floor at KAMS...

Absolutely! Look at how well Mark Alstork fits into the offense. Williams would provide some MUCH needed depth off the bench, and would likely see about 13-16 minutes of floor time per game (up from 8.5-11 minutes per game average in years prior). Thing is, his decision to leave Illinois was mutual with Underwood and the coaching staff. So it’s for the the best intentions of DJ and the Illini that he’s doing good things at George Washington.

As for JCL, I don’t think he would have an issue succeeding at Illinois. We just have to see if he made the right decision transferring to DePaul (he’s out till next season due to NCAA regulations). I (Brad) would guarantee that JCL would make a BIG impact in Underwood’s offense. The guy would be able to light it up from three, he’d lead a young offense with some of the most experience on the team (behind Finke and Black), and he likely would contend for a scoring title in the Big Ten. But one can only hope he made the best decision for himself, and wish him nothing but the best!

If “updating their b-roll” means broadcasting footage from 2017, let’s go with 2025. Calling it now, ESPN will be rolling and SOMEONE in a Buick LeSabre will be driving through. Book it.

It’s all Tom Fornelli’s fault. Send your complaints to him on Twitter @TomFornelli