Check The Tape – Penn State

What is wrong with the human mind/body that you can still get nervous when watching a field goal that you already know goes in? How is the brain able to convince itself that it might not happen? I’m watching Reisner line up and my heart is racing watching the tape. The brain is weird. Wait, I know – Illinois football has done this to me. [Read more...]

Check The Tape – Iowa

As painful as any post I’ve written in years. This tape is so hard to watch. 3 point underdogs, at home, first crowd of 50,000+, a team that just lost to a team we beat (giving up 51 points in doing so), and then THAT. [Read more...]

Check The Tape – Minnesota

Look, this might have been Minnesota’s worst game of the year and our best game – this might have been Michigan 2009 – and the rest of the season will be miserable. I get that. Still, I can’t help but walk into work on Monday morning and bask in “I saw you beat #24″ from my Mississippi State coworker who is currently celebrating his dream season. Wins are never not fun. [Read more...]

Check The Tape – Wisconsin

Can I just bury this here in the Check The Tape post?  The Gray Ghost uniforms we’ll be wearing against Minnesota in two weeks?  I’m trying so hard to be excited about them.  But I just can’t find it inside.  A direct reference to Red Grange should be something I send to everyone I know.  But this whole “lost 24 of the last 25 Big Ten games” thing is an emotional anchor.  The Purdue loss destroyed so much of my Illini Football soul. [Read more...]

Check The Tape – Purdue

Want to know how I know there’s a just and merciful God? There’s only 49 minutes of tape to check. Since 2012 I’ve used the BTN2Go app to rewatch the games (and make the screencaps), and this tape cuts off at the 49 minute mark. It’s 14-14 and then that’s that. So here’s my weekly Check The (49 Minutes Of Available) Tape: [Read more...]

Check The Tape – Nebraska

Finally.  It’s been almost three weeks since a CTT post.  Two weeks ago there wasn’t any online tape to check, and last week was my mom and step-dad’s car accident (they’re doing great, by the way – thanks to all who offered kind words).  I went a little overboard with this one after taking two weeks off.  It’s ugly, but here’s Check The Tape: [Read more...]

Check The Tape – WKU

The lengths I will go through to Check Tape. I’m in my Washington hotel room right now. Tried to Check The Tape last night but the hotel wifi was so bad I couldn’t even get game replay to start. But tonight, this ethernet cable I purchased is doing the trick. Tape has been checked. Sure, it might be 1:30 in the morning, and my wife, who went to sleep three hours ago, will be up and ready to explore the Olympic peninsula by 6:00, but when given the choice to watch an Illini football game for a second time or sleep, who doesn’t choose Illini football? [Read more...]

Check The Tape – Youngstown State

I think this is Year Five of Check The Tape. I know I didn’t do it the first year, but I think the second year I started writing out thoughts on the game tape, and then in 2011 I did a few screencaps, and then since 2012 I’ve been obsessively screencapping my game rewatch. Last year I added all of the arrows and such, so I’ll have to come up with something else to add this year. Maybe some gifs or video? We’ll see.

[Read more...]

Check The Tape – QB Video

No, really. I’m seriously doing this. I’m so starved for Illini football film (or is it attention?) that I’m CTT-ing the highlights they showed in the latest “Illini QB” video. Yes, I am. Really.

Is there much to learn? Of course not. Is this a fairly pointless exercise? Of course it is. Am I doing it anyway? Yes. Because this is my team, and I can’t not pour over every available video.

To the “tape”:

Shedding Blocks

When you’re watching film of your team playing your team, you see both the good and the bad on one play. “Yay, the defense did that well! Wait, that means the offense did that poorly.”

So when going through this first clip, keep that in mind. This is either Simon Cvijanovic holding his block really well… or BJ Bello really struggling to shed a block to get to the ballcarrier.

Goal line play, Josh Ferguson is getting the handoff, and Simon takes on BJ Bello (#10):


To keep him from scoring, Bello needs to get off this block right here. But he doesn’t.


Which means Josh Ferguson has a one on one at the goal line with a safety. With that much of a gap, and a one on one situation, and only one yard needed, there’s really nothing a single safety can do if Bello can’t get off that block.


Did Simon hook under his shoulder and give him a tug that was fairly close to holding? Yes. Do I want Simon to do that on every play because there’s holding on every play but you just have to disguise it? Yes.

Run The Receiver’s Route For Him

Want to learn how to get a few interceptions? Just read the route after the snap and then beat the receiver to the spot where the ball will be thrown.

In the video, Aaron Bailey had just made a nice throw to Kenny Knight for a 30+ yard gain. On the next play, he launches one for the corner of the endzone:


This next pic makes it look like a great throw. Receiver one step in front of the corner, ball placed where only the receiver can grab it.


Wait, no. The guy in orange is the cornerback (Bentley). The guy in blue is the receiver (Whitlow). So that’s not a touchdown – that’s an interception.


We only had one angle at it, but I don’t blame Bailey for that INT one bit. He threw it to the spot. It’s just that V’Angelo read the receiver, likely jumped in front when the receiver curled for the corner, and then outraced him to the spot where the ball would land.

Do this 12 times this season, V’Angelo.

Little Things

I’d like to pause here to point out the ridiculousness of doing a Check The Tape post based on three minutes of highlights shown at the end of a video about the QB battle.

THAT SAID, here are some little things I noticed:

Devin Church (#23) lined up in the Josh Ferguson spot. I’ve been hoping he’s more tailback than slot receiver, so I like seeing this.


Want to see the difference between a senior offensive tackle and a sophomore? In this screencap, on the snap of the ball, senior Simon Cvijanovic is firing into his shuffle step immediately to get leverage on the defensive end. On the other side, sophomore Austin Schmidt is still in his stance. That half second, right there, is sometimes the difference between positive and negative yards:

Simon step

Oh, and I also figured out why our QB’s are having a solid spring. At the end of each practice they touch the Hand of Manberg. #handofmanberg


You Tell Me

A new feature on Check The Tape! I did a screenshot of all three quarterbacks throwing the ball. I have my thoughts, and I have reasons I froze the tape at each spot, but I’m curious if you see the same things.

Here’s all three. Let me know what you think.







Play Of The Day

The scrimmage was closed to the media, but according to the announcer guy, this was the top play: a long touchdown pass from Wes Lunt to Dionte Taylor. Let’s break it down.

The arrow here is pointing to safety Zane Petty. The fact that he’s running parallel to the yard lines tells me that Dionte Taylor has done his job. He’s sold the inside route.


So when Taylor makes his turn – a sharp turn there is the key to this entire route – Petty will have to reverse field.


And if Lunt makes a perfect throw, this play is over. Saftey chased it inside, receiver made a sharp cut, quarterback put the ball to the outside where only the receiver could catch it… touchdown.


After the TD signal, Wes Lunt and offensive guard Joe Spencer celebrated. The celebration was… interesting.

Wes Joe

Check The Tape – Purdue

Decided: it’s 14.9 times more fun to check tape when you win.  Science!

This one probably needs a disclaimer: it’s Purdue.  They’re really bad on tape.  So when we make a devastating block, yes, it’s awesome, but it’s Purdue.  They’re us one year ago.

Which reminds me of something I’ve been thinking about.  For a long time I’ve referenced Indiana’s drop when Kevin Wilson was hired.  They were 5-7 under Bill Lynch, hire a better coach, and go 1-11.  Then Tim Beckman takes over for Ron Zook after a 6-6 season and goes 2-10.

And now this year it’s even more frequent.  Purdue was in a bowl last year but they fired Danny Hope anyway.  They hire a better coach… and are winless in the conference and headed for 1-11.  NC State was in a bowl last year but they fired Tom O’Brien anyway.  They hired Dave Doeren from Northern Illinois… and are winless in conference and headed for 3-9.  Arkansas had a tough season under interim coach John L. Smith.  But they still have more talent than Illinois, Purdue, and NC State combined.  They hire Bret Bielema… and are winless in conference and headed for 3-9.

Rebuilds almost always take time.  “But he took over a bowl team” really doesn’t mean much.  New systems are almost always confusing.  Talent rarely matches the scheme you’re trying to implement.  Sometimes you’re Jim Mora and you take over a talented team and simply tweak the playcalling.  But that’s the exception, not the rule.

Alrighty then.  Not sure why I felt the need for that mini-rant, but there it is.  To the tape.

Make Your Choice

Good offensive coordinatin’ is about making a defender choose.  And sometimes, even when they choose correctly, you still get a big gain.

Here’s the Jon Davis catch in the first quarter.  The play is designed for the two receivers to draw the corner and safety, the tailback to draw the linebacker, and (hopefully) Jon Davis turns it upfield in space all to himself.


Going well so far.  The middle linebacker is rushing the passer, so there’s one less player to cover that side of the field.  Which means the outside linebacker either has to choose Josh Ferguson coming out of the backfield or turn and go with Jon Davis.  Miles Osei and STEVEHULL are streaking deep and dragging the corner and safety with them.


Jon Davis makes his turn up the field, and the linebacker decides to leave Ferguson alone (the field side outside linebacker probably has that responsibility now) and run with him.  That’s the right choice here.


Nate has two options here.  Nearly everyone has been dragged deep, so a dump to Ferguson here is an easy 15 yards.


But he likely reads that the safety doesn’t have time to drift over to Davis, so he likes his chances there one on one with the linebacker.


This is such an athletic play by Davis.  Identifies the path of the ball and starts to turn.


Spots the ground after he catches it.


And gets the foot down.


Here’s the safety arriving too late, and Davis high-pointing the ball.


And getting a foot down.


Fantastic play.  Jon Davis and Matt LaCosse will likely be huge parts of the offense next year.  They have 44 catches between them so far – with all the wide receivers graduating, I’d like to see them get 44 catches apiece next season.

“Busted Play”

Here’s the play the announcers thought was a busted play.  Ya been Cubited, BTN announcers.

This is similar to the long bomb we completed to Hull in the Wisconsin game.  Sell the QB run, then have him back up and throw it. Here’s the formation at the snap:


Keep an eye on the cornerback as Scheelhaase tucks and runs.


He identifies the run and let’s Hull run right on by.  Now it’s up to the safety (in the box).


But Nate backpedals back into a pocket, leaving only the safety to cover Hull.


Nate fires…


…and Hull is pretty much all by himself.


Picking up 20 yards


This is where the announcers were saying that we “somehow” made something out of this “busted play”.  #Cubited.

You Mean I Can’t Just Run And Catch Passes?

If you’ve ever wondered why certain freshmen receivers don’t play very much, the answer is almost always “blocking”.  In high school they could just run and jump and catch.  If they want to play in college, they’ll have to learn how to block.

I like freshman WR Dionte Taylor.  I think he’ll be a big part of our offense in a few years.  But he has a few things to learn about blocking first.

Here he is lined up on the numbers, first down.


The pitch is going to Josh Ferguson running his way, so Taylor has a cornerback to block.


And he engages that corner, but, um…




Look again at the screencap above.  If Taylor pins his guy to the outside, Ferguson might have scored on this play.  I didn’t see any safety help come into view.  But the corner sent Taylor flying and made the tackle:


Again, you take any college receiver, go back to their freshman year, and you’ll find film like this.  It just takes time.  So the next time you find yourself saying “why don’t we pass to so-and-so more”, there’s your answer.

There’s Lucky, And Then There’s This

There is now a five-pack of lucky bounces that have gone against us in the last 10 years.  Five plays that leave you with “why do these bounces always happen to us?” feelings.  They are: 1) Rose Bowl forced fumble that bounced straight up in the air and hit a USC receiver in stride, 2) Rose Bowl bounce to Joe McKnight, 3) Fresno State 2-point conversion deflection, 4) Terry Hawthorne deflects a pass in the 2nd overtime at Michigan and it deflects right to their receiver in the endzone, and now 5) we force a fumble at Purdue and they have a guy trailing the play who picks it up and runs 35 yards.

So how was he trailing the play anyway?  The box shows the ballcarrier, but the arrow is pointing to Akeem Hunt will pick up the fumble.


As the returner slips a couple tackles from Tyler White and Cedric Doxy, Hunt is blocking TJ Neal.


Neal sheds the block by shoving Hunt behind the play.  Well isn’t that fortunate.


So as Dillan Cazley and Mike Svetina force the fumble, there’s Hunt trailing the play.


The bounce the ball makes here is unreal.  It hits right and Hunt’s feet…


but instead of bouncing back towards the endzone (where Doxy could have likely picked it up), it pops up right into his hands.


So he can now, you know, take it 35 yards and get tackled at the 50:


Some day a ball will bounce like that for us.  It’s gonna happen.  Luck always evens out.  It has to.

Chunky And Teko

You’ve heard it a lot from me this fall, but here it is in pictures.  The future of this defense: Chunky Clements and Teko Powell.

This is the TFL that Chunky made, but I was maybe more impressed by Powell on the play.

Here’s Chunky lined up at defensive end (how dumb do I feel for yesterday’s “Chunky is at DT right now but I’m guessing he moves back to DE next year” yesterday? Then I check the tape and he’s already back at DE.)


Purdue’s left tackle and left guard completely whiff on Chunky.  But watch Teko.  The right guard chucks him as he comes across his face.


And then the right tackle tries to cut him.


But Teko steps out of that and is in the backfield.  Oh, hi Chunky, nice tackle.


So if the tailback steps out of this tackle by Chunky (he didn’t), Teko was there to clean him up.


Another angle on Teko.  Right guard across his face.


Here comes the right tackle.


Tries to cut him.


Teko isn’t having it.  Oh, hi Chunky, nice tackle.


That’s the future.  Chunky pass rush, Teko clog up the middle.  Too bad they’re true-frosh and true-soph.  We need them to be seniors by August.

Defensive PotD

Defensive play of the day goes to Mike Svetina.  This… this is just fantastic.  Svetina slides up to the line of scrimmage at the snap.


Tight end tries to take him on.


He maintains his balance and sends the tight end stumbling.


Now both the pulling guard and the tight end are double teaming Svetina.


But he’s not having that, either.


He gets the corner, there’s the ballcarrier…


Tackled for no gain.


He’s still out of position (an inside ‘backer playing outside), but that’s all we can do this year.  In the next two seasons, I expect much more like this out of Svetina.

Teko II

OK, a little more Teko before we’re finished.  This kind of film makes the coaches very happy.  Teko is at DT here.


He starts the pass rush.


But after the ball is thrown to the tight end underneath, he turns and pursues the play.


And when the tight end spins out of TJ Neal’s tackle.


Guess who is there to clean him up.


I’m not sayin’ but I’m just sayin’ – Teko and Chunky are the future.

Not To Be Outdone

But it wasn’t all just great defensive plays on Saturday.  Here’s Teddy Karras going beastmode.  On the snap, Teddy takes on a defensive tackle.


And Teddy decides “you know what? I’m going to take him over there.”


So he does.


And with the defensive tackle out of the way, Josh Ferguson has a big seam for a 15 yard gain.


Two more years of that.  The last one hopefully an All Big Ten year, too.

Play(s) Of The Game

Two plays of the game, really.  Two PBU’s.

Eleven minutes to go, the receiver has a step on Jaylen Dunlap.


Not so fast my friend.


1:15 to go, the receiver has a step on V’Angelo Bentley.


Not so fast my friend.


And with that, an Illini win.  Finally.

Now let’s go take it out on the Wildkittens.