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September 6, 2023 @ 04:35 PM

I kept telling myself that this game was similar to Indiana a year ago to assuage my worries about this year’s team, so I went back and compared the stats to this year’s opener.

Some things were similar including a lot of penalties and overall sloppy play. I had forgotten the 4 turnovers (3 fumbles) to Indiana.
The differences were more striking than I first thought and give me more angst than I had before looking up the stats. Against Indiana we owned time of possession (36:33-23:27), total yards (448-362), rushing yards (216-32!!), and first downs (29-20). Indiana had a passing advantage, but it was swamped by our rushing attack and Chase Brown’s 199 yards on 36 carries. Looking at these stats if we cleaned up our penalties (8 for 80 vs Indiana’s 3-35) you could see the contours of last year’s Illini team. Against Toledo we lost all the metrics above: time of possession (33-27), total yards (416-374), rushing yards (186-168), and first downs (27-21).

The things Coach Bielema hangs his hat on were all in our favor last year and all against us in this year’s opener. Toledo was the more physical team and easily could have won this game. It makes me ask, “What are we good at?”. Counting on Luke hero ball every week doesn’t seem sustainable. Altmyer (I thought he was great btw, but that’s not what this team or program is built around)

There’s a lot to learn, but I really thought though there would be some regression in our secondary our line play on both sides would help. A story line I haven’t seen discussed or jumped into is our running backs. I thought they both looked slow to see the hole and not terribly explosive when they got there. Did Chase Brown mask a mediocre run game last year? Does this performance open the door for the younger backs? Will the D-Line perform like we thought they would, or was Toledo a sign of things to come? Johnny Newton is a better player than he showed against Toledo and I thought Keith Randolph picked it up later, but our pass rush didn’t get any pressure and did a terrible job of containment. Next week there’s a quarterback who has all the same skills, but is better at all of them. I was firmly in the 8-4 or 7-5 camp given the schedule, but that feels unrealistic at this point. Will re-evaluate after Friday.

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