Illinois lost to South Florida. You know that. Let’s move on to the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
Corbin and Epstein combo show what this offense can become
The second drive was a thing of beauty as Illini Offensive Coordinator Rod Smith showed what this offense could do. First, Reggie Corbin ran for 5 yards, then sprinted for 32 yards, culminating with Mike Epstein taking a handoff up the middle, cutting toward the sideline, and out-running South Florida’s speedy defense down the sideline for a 43-yard touchdown run.
The sequence was proof of concept of what this offense can become.
Overall, Corbin and Epstein combined for 211 yards on the ground on 31 carries. Epstein was also productive in the passing game pulling in 5 receptions for 56 yards. All in all, Epstein and Corbin combined for 274 of the Illini’s 380 total yards.
The Senior Kicker went 4-for-4 on the day as his four field goals helped push the Illini to 19-7 lead over South Florida. McLaughlin hit from 26, 46, 53, and 41 yard out and has made seven of the eight field goals he has kicked this season, including three over 50 yards.
Through three games, McLaughlin has a chance to make a push for the Lou Groza award, given to the best kicker in college football.
Illini Squander an Opportunity to Avoid Big Ten West Schadenfreude
Saturday was an ugly day for the Big Ten West with Wisconsin losing to BYU in Madison, Nebraska losing to Troy at home, Northwestern losing to Akron at Ryan Field, and Purdue losing to Missouri in West Lafayette. The Illini had an opportunity to became the talk of the town in the Big Ten West.
On its own, an Illini loss to South Florida likely does not get the attention of the national media, but coupled with the other disasters in the division that day, the Illini became part of the punchline.
Illini could have been the lone bright spot for the Big Ten West
With a little over two minutes left and with USF facing a 3rd and 20, it looked the Illini were going to cease the opportunity to rise above the Big Ten West chaff, but then it all came crashing down when USF quarterback Blake Barnett hit a wide open Darnell Solomon streaking down the sideline for a 50-yard touchdown pass.
Illini join the punchline
Instead of the Illini standing out as program headed in the right direction on an otherwise ugly day for the division, the Illini get bunched into the pack of Big Ten West teams that gave the division a black eye.
Here’s how the Big Ten West did today:— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) September 16, 2018
- Wisconsin lost to BYU at home
- Nebraska lost to Troy at home
- Illinois lost to USF at home (Soldier Field)
- Purdue lost to Missouri at home
- Northwestern lost to Akron at home
- Iowa beat an FCS school
- Minnesota beat Miami… Ohio
Worst of all, the Illini are now subject to the bad memes and over-used dumpster fire tweets that came with the Big Ten’s West’s terrible Saturday.
What I imagine a series of games between the Big Ten West and Pac-12 South might look like this year. pic.twitter.com/Pe0GslfG7l— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) September 16, 2018
Live look at the Big Ten West today pic.twitter.com/ApZgR6IKor— Big Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) September 16, 2018
South Florida scored 18 points all in fourth quarter as the Bulls mounted drives of 75 yards, 71 yards, and 85 yards that respectively resulted in a touchdown, field goal, and touchdown (with a two-point conversion). The overall numbers for the defense were bad as South Florida out gained Illinois 626 to 380, but the second half was particularly atrocious as the Illini gave up nearly 350 yards of offense in the final two quarters of the game.
So far this season — and as evidenced by their performance against Kent State and South Florida — the Illini defense has looked incapable of handling a spread attack. Although Kent State and South Florida run different versions of the spread, the Illini defense seems to struggle to against any semblance of a wide open attack.
Now, a Friday night matchup with a Penn State offense that runs another variation of the spread — one more explosive than Kent State’s and South Florida’s — looks extremely daunting.
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