It was the number 4s. On both sides of the ball.
Nobody even knew that John Paddock came on the field, even on his first pass, the announcers thought it was Luke Altmyer still under center.
(start at 4:05)
With all the talk of sneaky replacements last week, Illinois executed this to perfection. Lunney snuck Paddock right into the game and Paddock delivered.
With the season this offense has had, it had to click at some point.
I think it took 539 minutes for it to click, but when it finally did on 4th and 11 on our own 15, boy, did that offense look beautiful.
And that's really what I have been saying all season. This offense is good.
Let me explain using the chart below.
At no point did Illinois have a meteoric rise in cumulative PPA. Last season, this team was creating negative plays every play. This season the Altmyer effect reared its head and Illinois was back to making positive plays. But none as fast as what we saw on Saturday.
Every play in the first half was positive. Illinois didn't even punt until the last possession of the half. This was a very un-Big Ten West like for the offense.
But this is what Illinois looked like on paper all season.
Illinois was averaging 107.4 yards per touchdown.
Against Minnesota, Illinois was averaging 82.4 yards per touchdown
This means two things.
- Illinois was scoring every time it had the ball.
- Illinois was also owning the time of possessions and thus winning the field possession game.
This is the Bielema Bully Ball that Illinois played all last season.
This was finally the competence that we expected from this young team.
Now, we were 85 seconds from this column going a completely different direction, but, Illinois finally learned to close games — something that has plagued Illinois for a year, since losing to Michigan State on Nov. 5, 2022.
364 days later, Illinois has learned not to lose.
Offensive Player of the Game
John Paddock, in his one series, had a 2.54 predicted points per play. This, is probably the greatest performance from a QB that we have seen in a while. And boy did it look pretty.
But I do want to shout out Luke Altmyer and Isaiah Williams here. While their per-play stats are probably still to be desired, Altmyer had 12.96 cumulative predicted points on the game. and Williams had 13.65 cumulative predicted points. From your starting QB and WR, these are the types of plays you want to see all season long.
The fact that the pair could return next season gives us a lot to be excited for in 2024.
Defensive Player of the Game
Johnny Newton in one half led all players. I assume his stats would have doubled if he played the full game.
But this was the outside linebackers’ breakout game. Both Seth Coleman and Gabe Jacas were stuck at the bottom of the defensive players list. Coleman had a good game against Maryland and Jacas had good games against Penn State and Wisconsin, but those were outliers in the whole season. Until now.
The the havoc that Newton and Randolph brought, Coleman and Jacas were free to do their jobs. The game seemed slower for the pair, and clearly, the effect was seen.
Finally, Illinois played some complementary football. Sure the heroics of number 4 on either side of the ball helped, but this was a team effort. From offense to defense to special teams, everything was clicking.
This team believed it was a good team and they showed it on Saturday.
Great building block to start the final trimester.
Win the Big Ten West.