BOY I’M SURE GLAD THE BIG TEN DECIDED TO RESUME FOOTBALL, AREN’T YOU?!
I wish I could just watch my favorite teams each week without wanting to st*b myself in the head, but here we are. P.J. Fleck and the Golden Gophers boat-raced Illinois on Saturday. Here’s my astute analysis, you masochists.
Where the Hell is Luke Ford?
One catch. Four Yards. That’s what Fighting Illini fans have seen from Luke Ford this season. We were understandably amped when the Carterville native decided to transfer to Illinois last year and understandably ticked when his waiver request was denied by the NCAA. A healthy, eligible Ford should have been one of the lynchpins of this offense, but he’s made no impact whatsoever. The coaching staff has made no effort in getting Ford the football. I understand that Daniel Barker and Daniel Imatorbhebhe are also respectable options, but you don’t buy a Ferrari just to keep it in the garage.
The Offense is (Still) Offensive
Mike Epstein & Chase Brown have proven to be a formidable combo in the backfield, each averaging better than six yards per carry so far this season. But Saturday’s performance was extremely disappointing overall. Illinois totaled 287 yards — not a horrible number in isolation. But when you consider Minnesota’s defensive woes, it’s absolutely unacceptable. The Gophers had surrendered 94 points and close to 1,200 yards in their first two games, and the Illini simply could not move the ball.
Some of that can no doubt be attributed to Coran Taylor making his first career start. The Peoria product completed just six passes for 106 yards — 52 of which came on a TD to Josh Imatorbhebhe in garbage time. He also threw an illegal forward pass about five yards beyond the line of scrimmage and fumbled in the red zone, which resulted in the Illini facing a 3rd-and-goal from midfield. Jitters? Maybe. Inexperience? Probably. Injury? Perhaps. So help your QB by calling some short or intermediate passes (paging Luke Ford) and taking what the defense gives you.
What I expected to be a high point of this team has been a complete wreck. Hopefully, a post-coronavirus Illinois lineup can have better results.
The Defense is (Still) Indefensible
Being overmatched by better teams is one thing. Getting completely undressed week after week is another. This defense constantly looks clueless, unfocused, and out of position. The players deserve some of the blame, of course, but this is — and has been — a coaching problem. HOW DO THE PLAYERS NOT KNOW WHERE TO BE? I know I’m screaming into the void...but isn’t that literally the point of practicing? Telling your players “Hey! Stop doing that! Do this instead!” sounds like a fundamental aspect of teaching. Speaking of which...
Oh, Look! Another Flag
The Illini amassed more penalty yards (120) than passing yards (106) in Saturday’s loss. WHY IS THERE A TARGETING PENALTY EVERY GAME? The lack of discipline at this stage of the Lovie regime is simply embarrassing. Coran Taylor got called for delay of game after literally waiting 15 seconds to snap the ball. There were more than a few questionable calls, like the clipping penalty that resembled a hip check more than an illegal block below the waist, but that’s not the point. The Illini are constantly behind the chains on offense and can’t get off the field on defense. This is not a newfound problem. Five years in, and Illinois still can’t get out of its own way.
Can’t wait to give up 40 to Rutgers next week. At least we’re only 17 days away from basketball season...