The Fighting Illini made some excruciating errors in 2017. Although frustrating to watch, it was to be expected of a team that started 16 true freshmen during the course of the season.
Easily the most noticeable mistake came very early in the year. With about five minutes left in the season opener against Ball State, and Illinois down 21-16, Illini fans were treated to this:
Ball State Interception pic.twitter.com/6tmsBGc0MS— IllinoisLoyalty (@IllinoisLoyalty) September 2, 2017
Miscommunication clearly played a major role here. Malik Turner has been one of Illinois’ best receivers over the past decade and ended his career with the ninth most receiving yards in Illinois history. Chayce Crouch was the presumed starter at quarterback for the entire offseason and had gotten plenty of first-string reps during camp. But the jitters of playing live for the first time in almost a year may have caused Crouch to mistime his progressions.
Inexperience on the offensive line no doubt contributed, as Ball State’s defensive linemen were pressuring Crouch almost immediately.
As expected, this mishap drew the attention of national media.
Unfortunately, similar mistakes are likely to be served up again in 2018. Next season the offense will be adjusting to the schemes of a new coordinator, and the defense will still be overwhelmingly young, especially following the departures of a few major defensive contributors.
This reality won’t stop many of the Illini faithful from believing that, someday soon, it won’t be necessary to endure many more mistakes like this one.