clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Keep the passion—we can get through this together

The Illini loss to Michigan State stings, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 05 Michigan State at Illinois

In 2000, while a student at the University of Illinois, I saw the film Magnolia. I went to the movie theater in Savoy, paid $7, sat down by myself for almost three hours, and I watched Tom Cruise, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly, Julianne Moore, Luis Guzman, and others give dramatic performances with the dueling backdrops of Paul Thomas Anderson’s cinematic lunacy and Aimee Mann’s angelic wail. And also, that scene where everyone starts singing along with her song.

As a young cinephile, I found the film profound and haunting. There were multiple quotable lines and Tom Cruise’s charisma shone as brightly as it had ever done. But there’s one line from the film that reminds me of Saturday’s gutwrenching Illini loss to the Michigan State Spartans.

“We may be through with the past, but the past is not through with us.”

This loss strikes all the right notes. It strums all of the chords of all of those old familiar songs those of us who write #HTTO know all too well. It’s our familiar past bellowing in the most toxic melody imaginable. It’s a metronome that is arsenic to your ears.

Michigan State v Illinois Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Illini got outschemed by a decimated opponent.

A depleted Michigan State squad beat us with their backups.

The Illini couldn’t consistently execute in the red zone.

Michigan State came into Champaign and out Illinois-ed Illinois.

Payton Thorne played like Graham Mertz in 2020.

Lovie Smith never should have let Payton Thorne and Jayden Reed out of the state of Illinois.

I know you’re all feeling the sting of these factors. I am fully aware of the metallic taste of unshakable disappointment. But let’s take the bitter pill and fight another day.

Normally, when I write football columns, I wait for all of the relevant analytics. I look at PFF grades and snap counts as well as individual/unit performances. I don’t think that’s going to be necessary to analyze this game.

Vince McMahon once told one of the wrestlers who worked for his company that they need to (paraphrasing) “learn to eat crap and like the taste of it.”

As Illini fans, we’re going to have to eat a lot of crap this week. We have dished it out, and rightfully so. We’re partying like it’s 2001, and it feels amazing.

We took a massive L as a fanbase against Michigan State, so let’s do the right thing. Let’s give the Spartans credit for not being intimidated. They certainly deserve their due for outplaying a ranked team on the road with the shadow of a disgusting travesty hanging over the roster. They didn’t quit. They got stops when they needed them. We can argue about the Illini playcalling all day, and that’s fine. But let’s not be the fanbase that makes everything about us and our misery.

Congratulations to the young men who showed up to play the best defense in the country and scored almost three times the amount the Illini have given up on a per game basis. Congratulations to the coaching staff that called a good game.

Next week, we have to bring the same passion to the Purdue game. Our beloved Illini are still 7-2 with a chance to make it to the Big Ten Championship Game. Chase Brown, Isaiah Williams, Devon Witherspoon and Johnny Newton still play for the Fighting Illini, so I like this team’s chance to rebound. Ryan Walters is still the defensive coordinator, so I like the odds of a recovery against Aidan O’Connell and Co.

Michigan State v Illinois Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

When the Illini lost to the Hoosiers earlier this season, things looked dire.

The team ripped off six wins in a row, including roadkills against Wisconsin and Nebraska. This coaching staff has done a tremendous job to keep heads level and goals clear. It’s not time to abandon ship in frustration. Yes, the other Big Ten fanbases are going to hurl all kinds of foul invective in our direction. Steel yourself, and don’t take the bait.

This has been a fun season, and one loss can’t ruin that.

I said it once, and I’ll say it again.

Pump the breaks?

Slam the gas?

Nah, just enjoy the ride.

Even when there are potholes on the road.

And if you don’t want to take this trip alone, I’m here for you. And you know what? I’m not driving on the pothole-filled highway. Like Liz Lemon, I’m flying the hug plane.