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Patience is a virtue. Lack of urgency is not.

The breathing room in the Big Ten West evaporates for Bielema’s Illini.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to pinpoint what went wrong for Bret Bielema and his Fighting Illini football team in front of more than 56,000 fans at Memorial Stadium against visiting Michigan State. The task isn’t difficult because the reason for the loss is not an enigma.

It’s nearly impossible because so many things went wrong. For the second time in 2022, Illinois lost a football game, and drops to 7-2 overall, and 4-2 in the Big Ten West.

Check that wording. Illinois didn’t get beat.

They lost.

Too much sticking to the plan. Too much patiently waiting for the other team to let you have it. Too much passiveness.

By repeatedly handing the ball off, and not pushing it downfield whatsoever, the Michigan State defense patiently weathered the storm and then stacked the line of scrimmage on obvious running downs in short yardage.

Illinois had 441 yards for only 15 points. That’s extremely difficult to do, to be honest. To be brutally honest, that’s pathetic.

Here’s a look into the continued Red Zone ineffectiveness:

  • Michigan State: (4-5) for 80%
  • Illinois: (1-4) for 25%

Lack of creativity in play calling is stifling Illinois when it matters most.

The lone exception to this was the successful two-point conversion, which was a beautifully designed fake screen to find a wide open tight end in the back of the end zone.

The 15 points were all courtesy of the air, and the both touchdown courtesy of Isaiah Williams. Five touches for Williams, two touchdowns. One of those tuddies was for a 60-yard scamper after a 3-yard crossing route completed by Illini QB Tommy DeVito.

Maybe Lunney should get him more involved. Just a thought.

OC Barry Lunney ran the ball 47 times...again

Here’s the deal with this. It’s fine and dandy to run the ball nearly 50 times when you’re pummeling your opponent into submission. It makes sense to be patient.

When you run the ball 47 times and don’t find the endzone once, you may need to take a look at your overall game plan. It seemed like there wasn’t one.

Let’s unpack that a little:

First Quarter:

  • 1st and Goal from the 3. Chase Brown run for no gain.
  • 2nd & Goal from the 3: Tommy Devito runs for no gain
  • 3rd and Goal from the 3: Brown runs for 1 yard

Brown: 10 carries for 37 yards (3.7 YPC), with 28 yards on the first three carries when he, and the offensive line, was fresh.

2nd Quarter:

  • Brown: 8 carries for 40 yards (5.0 YPC), and a costly fumble in the Red Zone.
  • Josh McCray had three carries for 12 yards (4.0 YPC)
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 05 Michigan State at Illinois
Brown fumbles after an 18-yard game to lead to another drive that gets yards, but no points.

3rd Quarter:

  • Brown: 10 carries for 41 yards (4.1 YPC), with 15 yards coming on the first two plays.

4th Quarter:

  • 2nd and Goal from the 5: Brown rushes for 1 yard

Possession that starts at 13:30

The last five plays are runs, four of them by Reggie Love (RB3).

After Love gained 8 yards on 2nd and 9, the offense ran a hurry up play for a 1-yard loss to, you guessed it, Reggie Love.

4th & 2: Brown up the middle for one yard. Turnover on downs.

Possession that starts at 3:37

After Illinois gets the ball back and doesn’t use its last timeout on defense letting almost 40 seconds run off the clock, the first play is YOU GUESSED IT...Reggie Love up the middle for 6 yards and 30 seconds off the clock!

Incomplete pass. Sack. Sack. Turnover on downs. Puke.

In short yardage and goal-to-go situations, Lunney keeps giving the ball to Brown, and it seems like he rarely converts, if ever. That’s not the type of back he is, and that’s not the type of offensive line Illinois has.

If you build it, the will come...once.

We’ve all seen this movie before. Not just the one where Kevin Costner makes ghosts appear in a cornfield in Iowa to sooth his inner demons, kidnapping Darth Vader along the way.

Is this heaven? No, it’s Champaign, Illinois.

The real movie where Illinois gets some momentum, undoes more than two decades of ineptitude and convinces the jaded masses to return to get a look at the newly created winning team.

Virtual sellout against Michigan State, and thud. A resounding one at that.

Not all hope is lost, however. The Illini still control their destiny in the Big Ten West.

We love no other.