It was cold and it was awful — losing to Northwestern does not feel as salty as losing to Mizzou in basketball, but perhaps there is light at the end of this football tunnel.
The loss to Northwestern was expected. The Illini were two-touchdown underdogs, and unfortunately most Illini fans are numb to this. Numb to losing to the purple and black. Numb to being outcoached. Numb to the rival’s defense consistently punishing the orange and blue inconsistent offense.
Last season was the year to really upend Northwestern. NW’s offense was historically bad in 2019. Last year’s score resulted in 19-point loss for the Illini. This year’s an 18-point loss. Is there really a difference at this point?
Last year calamity struck, with Brandon Peters out because of Geno Stone’s egregious helmet-to-helmet concussion in the game prior versus Iowa that ultimately knocked Peters out of the game, and it seemed inevitable the Illini offense would not get going with Matt Robinson at the helm. But wait, in 2020 — Peters is back! Illinois’ offense should be A-OK with the senior quarterback taking snaps, with Mike Epstein healthy, and with Josh Imatorbhebhe still on the roster.
Low and behold, 2020 reared its ugly head. Again.:
Out at Northwestern— Illini Stats & Notes (@IlliniStats) December 12, 2020
DB S. Brown
Previously announced out for the season
It’s no wonder NW ran riot for 411 yards. It’s disgusting. It’s a disgrace. With two starting defensive tackles out, an incredible tackling linebacker out in Khalan Tolson out, this was coming. Injuries were part of this loss. There was something else.
I’m a Brandon Peters fan. I think most Illini fans would say he’s had a successful Illini career in his time with us since he’s transferred from Michigan. This fact hurts: He was dreadful in his last game against Northwestern. 3 of 14 passing. 21 yards. A QB rating of 32.6. Yes, the weather was awful. Yes, his offensive coordinator did him no favors. Yes, the rushing attack was not as potent as it was in prior games this season. This was a game Peters will want to roll up in a bag, burn it, and throw it in the dumpster.
Losing to NW hurts. There’s no getting around that. But something happened yesterday that instilled some hope, not just for the rest of 2020, but for the next few years looking ahead to the upcoming Illini football season.
Isaiah Williams can play quarterback, and be a good starting quarterback for this team and in Big Ten play.
He was 4-of-8 for 86 yards and a touchdown pass in limited action, but when he came in, Illinois looked somewhat formidable, even it was indeed too little too late.
We saw what Williams did against Rutgers. When Peters graduates, this team is Isaiah Williams’ team to take hold of. Will Lovie Smith still be around? There’s a good chance he is, though that is uncertain right now. Williams is agile, and he’s proven he can throw when given the chance. And, like Peters, he can morph into a leader.
Long story short: Saturday sucked. Isaiah Williams is the next quarterback. There are deep-lying issues in this team, but we should acknowledge that the next quarterback has the chance to give opponents fits for the next 3 years.