It's refreshing to have some optimism injected into a fanbase.
It's the first time in over a decade the Illinois football team was nationally relevant. Upsetting the No. 6 team in the country will do that.
Now, it's about sustaining those good vibes. A win over Purdue would be a step in the right direction. However, it will be tougher than many think. Illinois needs to play with the same never say die attitude, or it could be a long day in West Lafayette.
Running the ball is key
It's nice to see so many explosive runs from Corbin for 60 yards for a touchdown. However, your best bet is to slow things down and keep Purdue's offense off the field. Wisconsin doubled Illinois' time of possession, but turnovers and big plays beat the Badgers. That's not necessarily a week in, week out strategy for success. Keeping drives moving, grinding clock, and allowing your defense to breathe will alleviate some of the *ahem* problems on that side of the ball.
Don't get me wrong, scoring quickly is awesome. Yes, give us more Corbin long runs and Peters throwing deep to Imatorbhebhe and Casey Washington.
The biggest key to winning this Saturday, however, will be converting third downs better (2 -of-10) and keeping Purdue's pass-happy attack off the field. That should mean more work for Corbin and Dre Brown.
Purdue's defense is not Wisconsin's. The Illini should be able to move the ball with better efficiency and pick on the Boilermaker defensive backs a little. The middle of the field should be easier to navigate. I expect Daniel Barker to have a nice game.
Also, blitz pickup needs to be better. The touchdown to Imatorbhebhe is exactly why. Running backs and interior offensive linemen, give your quarterback a little time, and he can make some great throws.
Tackle, tackle, tackle
This should be obvious, but Illinois has to tackle well. Yes, the Boilermakers will be without Elijah Sindelar and Rondale Moore (probably), but Jack Plummer has proved to be more than competent, and receiver David Bell can be just as dangerous as Moore. Purdue has dropped any pretense that they will run the ball, so Plummer will probably throw the ball 50 or even 60 times against Illinois.
That means the back end of the defense has to be sound. The adjustments made for the Wisconsin game, especially Tony Adams at corner, have to wrap up and limit big plays. Pressuring the quarterback is also paramount, although that could be more difficult without Oluwole Betiku if he's not healthy. More blitzing linebackers, more Hansen and Eifler coming through the inside gaps to create havoc. I personally really like the three defensive tackle look, with Tymir Oliver, Jamal Milan and Jamal Woods on the field together. That's a lot of size and tenacity up front. Rotate Calvin Avery in. Keep him fresh.
Health is also key. No more injuries, football overlords. Please.
You do you, special teams
Keep trucking, specialists. Besides a few missed field goals, our special teams units are elite. Thanks, James McCourt, for one of the most memorable finishes in Illinois history.
Mostly though, for Illinois to have a chance in upending the Boilermakers on the road, it'll be up to the coaching staff to simplify things. Keep making adjustments like you did against Wisconsin. Keep the effort level high. You've re-righted the ship, now it's time to ensure it doesn't sink again.