CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Illinois suffered its third straight Big Ten loss last Saturday at Maryland, trounced 63-33 by a Terrapins team that had had an up-and-down 2018 season.
“It didn’t go well on Saturday,” said junior Reggie Corbin. “That’s not coach Rod Smith or coach Love Smith, that’s on the players. We have to be accountable for our actions...”
The defense has given up an average of almost 52 points a game and 569 yards to opposing offenses in the last five contests. In that time, Illinois is 1-4; the program has parted ways with former players Bennett Williams and Louis Dorsey; Hardy Nickerson resigned as defensive coordinator; and Lere Oladipo has been suspended indefinitely after being charged with domestic battery. Oh, and after a quarterback change, new starter MJ Rivers went down with a concussion against Maryland, forcing senior AJ Bush right back into the action following a benching.
But, despite it all, the team isn’t making any excuses for the product on the football field.
“Obviously, we’re not happy with all the results,” said senior Nick Alllegretti. “We’ve played some good games and some bad games. Overall, I think execution hasn’t been where we need to be, and I think that’s probably the story of most of our games.”
With just four regular season games remaining on the schedule, the clock is running out for the upperclassmen on the team. There are winnable games left, starting with this weekend’s matchup against Minnesota. Then, the Illini go on the road to face a Nebraska team that didn’t get off to a hot start under new head coach Scott Frost, but nothing comes easy over there in Lincoln.
“We have to take it one game at a time,” said Allegretti. “We have four brutal Big Ten games left. Every single one is going to be physical; it’s going to be a challenge. We start that with Minnesota, a very physical team and a very talented team coming into Champaign. I always love playing at home so have to get the first of the final four off to a good note.”
Saturday’s contest, kicking off at 2:30 p.m., is likely the Illini’s last chance at a victory at home for the seniors this season. Senior Day comes when Illinois welcomes No. 19 Iowa to town on Nov. 17.
No update on Rivers
“We want to be able to score points,” said offensive coordinator Rod Smith. “It seemed like when MJ was in a couple of times, we got a little bit of a spark and we were able to do some things... He said he felt good and feels better now.”
Rivers will be evaluated by the medical staff throughout the week and his status for Saturday’s game will be determined on if he clears protocol in time.