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Rapid takeaways from Illinois’ last-second win over Toledo

Illinois escaped with a victory. But what does it all mean?

TCR // Brad Repplinger

Illinois beat a MAC team on Saturday night. What does it all mean?

  1. Luke Altmyer is a dude. But it’s not just the numbers, it’s the style points. Altmyer looked like that guy. Yes, he threw a bad interception. And he threw for 211 yards, not an earth-shattering number. But the fourth down throw to Casey Washington was an epic gunslinger move that creates a fan favorite. Altmyer also led the Illini with 69 rushing yards. Maybe missing on Hudson Card won’t wind up being detrimental to Illinois after all. Altmyer showcased the dual-threat skill that made him a highly sought-after quarterback prospect. He gives the Illinois offense the potential to hit unfamiliar levels.
  2. Kaden Feagin, your table may be set. Josh McCray ran for 17 yards on 8 carries. He was largely ineffective. His utilization as a primary ball carrier out of the shotgun seemed antithetical to his best skills. He wasn’t the late-game hammer that his reputation would imply. I am unsure if he is completely healed from his injuries, but Illinois needed more production from the thunder of their running game. Could it be time to give true freshman in-state star Kaden Feagin a shot? He has the power profile that made McCray such a revelation in his true freshman season. But this season will be won on the margins. Next man up.
  3. The defense improved, but are they ready for prime time? The stars of the Illinois defense were quiet. The linebackers lost track of Dequan Finn on multiple occasions. The secondary had some sloppy tackling and missed assignments. But the rotations are going to change and evolve as the season progresses. Miles Scott’s pick-six was a momentum-shifting game-changer of a play. Elijah Mc-Cantos looked like a potential difference-maker as a redshirt freshman. Without Matthew Bailey, the secondary had to cobble together solutions. The defense didn’t dominate like last year. But there is some room for evolution. The defensive backs sure did tighten things up in the second half. Can the defensive line and linebackers up their game?
  4. Kansas will be a tough test. Lance Leipold, like Jason Candle, is a hell of a coach. He will have the Jayhawks ready for Friday Night Lights in Lawrence. Jalon Daniels is undoubtedly one of the best quarterbacks Illinois will face all season. If Dequan Finn can give Illinois fits, Daniels could be a destructive force against an unproven Illinois defense. A tough road test early is a good barometer for the season. If Illinois can get out of Kansas with a victory and a 2-0 start, the Big Noon Kickoff game against Penn State looms larger. A loss isn’t a backbreaker, but it puts more pressure on beating teams like Nebraska, Purdue, Northwestern, Indiana, and Florida Atlantic. Illinois didn’t look great in their opener. How much will they improve week-over-week.
  5. What happened to tough, smart, and dependable tonight? The 90 penalty yards on 9 penalties in the first half wrecked Illinois. Mental mistakes were rampant. This is the opposite of what Illinois demonstrated last season. Sure, winning is a great disinfectant. But this team needs to clean up its mistakes. As good as Toledo is, Illinois’ level of competition will increase significantly this season. This team must figure out how to play more consistently and disciplined. Perhaps the leadership and maturity void left by departing NFL players is insurmountable. But either way, playing the same game in Lawrence that they played against Toledo likely won’t fly.