If Illini fans were upset and angry after the debacle vs. Arizona State, now they may be suicidal. This game was the perfect opportunity for the Illinois defense to redeem itself after being run off the field in the desert, but it was unable to stop the high-tempo offense lead by quarterback Colby Cameron. Louisiana Tech and its fans must be excited to have arguably one of the most prolific offenses in college football.
Now Illini fans, before you step off ledge, just take the time and look back at some of the positives from this game. It appears that Coach Tim Beckman has done away with the white pants and opted for the blue pant-blue shirt combination at home. This is the sharpest home uniform I have seen in some time. Another positive: the firework display after the game was fantastic. There’s nothing like watching exploding colors in the sky to calm the pent-up anger generated by watching this Illini team play.
The Illini also showed some fight to close the gap to 21-17 at halftime before the floodgates opened in the third quarter. I genuinely believe that these players and this coaching staff want to succeed, but simply cannot put a product on the field that reflects that.
I think everybody who watched this game can agree that this Illini defense, once considered one of the Big Ten’s best, greatly misses Vic Koenning. Coach Tim Banks cannot seem to motivate his star players to play at the elite level they played at a year ago. A prime example is Terry Hawthorne getting burned like a piece of toast by Quinton Patton for a long touchdown pass. It just looks as if these players are going through the motions. Where is the fire? Where is the passion? Where is the leadership? Michael Buchanan should be getting to the quarterback every play when he lines up against lineman from a WAC school. Why can’t he dominate like Whitney Mercilus last year? He’s physically stronger and just as fast, but what is missing? The x-factor is the coaching staff. Beckman and Mike Thomas let a gem get away when Koenning was let go.
Scoring 24 points in a game should be enough to win. No questions asked. The offense, although giving the ball away way too many times, showed flashes of greatness. Nathan Scheelhaase looked ineffective as he tried shaking off some of the rust from the past two weeks, but Reilly O’Toole showed signs that he could play at this level. He led a methodical 13-play drive resulting in a Donovan Young touchdown. This offense can score points and the Illini can compete in games as long as the defense doesn’t allow 50 points. The quarterback controversy is back in Champaign, but having two quarterbacks capable of playing well on any given day gives Beckman a few more options.
Next week, Penn State comes to town, which is sure to be a heated game after some of Illinois’ coaches were seen in State College after the sanctions on the Penn State football program were announced. Look for more media attention on this game throughout the week and probably a bigger crowd at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. I hate to say it, but look for Penn State to come to Champaign and win their first conference game of the season. My prediction…..Penn State 24 Illinois 13.
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