I'm Not Mad - I'm Just Disappointed
That's what we say to our kids, right? We know it's not OK to get angry with them. And when we do lose our cool (every parent loses their cool in weak moments), they can destroy us with "are you mad at me?". We respond with the truth: "I'm not mad - I'm just disappointed."
That's how I feel right now. That's my reaction to this game. Someone on Twitter said "you can't be happy with any of this, right?" and that was my response. Because that's where I'm at. I'm not really mad at anyone. I'm just so, so incredibly disappointed.
I don't really get mad. In life. It's a personality flaw, really. People will walk all over me and I do nothing. Someone takes credit for something I did at work? Someone cuts me off in traffic? Ask anyone who knows me (they're all shaking their heads up and down right now), I don't get angry. I went way too far with my dad's "just let things roll off your back" advice.
But I can get disappointed. Perhaps twice as much as the average chap. I invest my heart and soul into things (have you noticed?), so when something goes horribly wrong, I almost take it personally. Some people turn off the game and throw the remote. I turn off the game and stare out the window for days.
Days. Trust me, days. Many will forget this game, ignore Illinois football for a few more years, and laugh at me for still caring. I won't sleep well tonight, won't have a good day tomorrow (the thought of watching an NFL game will be unappealing to me because I HATE FOOTBALL), won't sleep well tomorrow night, and will probably get up after an hour of not sleeping to watch this game again to see if I can figure out what went wrong.
There's no point to that - it's not like I'm going to call up Lovie and say "did you think about THIS?" - but I'm going to do it anyway. Because, for some reason, this is personal. Losses haunt me. And our program loses more than, oh, 63 or 64 of the 65 Power Five programs.
Perhaps if I could get angry I could cleanse myself and be done with it. One big outburst, I get it all out, and then I wake up tomorrow with a clear head. I have a feeling that a lot of people quit today - this was the last straw - and I almost envy them. It would be impossible for me. As I've written half a dozen times, if this program hasn't made me quit yet, it never well. I guess I'm in for life. People have always confused "one of the seventeen" to mean "there are 17 Illinois football fans" (it's "there are only 17 of us who care more about football than basketball at Illinois"), but after a game like this, maybe there will only be 17 Illinois football fans.
I mean, just look at the big rocks here:
- Purdue is us this decade, piling 3-9 on top of 2-10. We hire a new coach in March of 2016, they hire a new coach in December of 2016.
- We're 3-2 and nearly beat USF, they're 2-3 and lost to Eastern Michigan, and this game is at our place, on homecoming
- We play the freshmen last year in an attempt to build for the future, not the now. Purdue plays a bunch of seniors and senior-transfers on defense, and they all graduate at the end of the season. Fine, they were better than us last year. But it's this year, and we're more experienced on D than they are, and we just scored 7 points.
A chance to go toe-to-toe with a peer and see where you stand. The game I declared in 2016 would be our first true test to see where the program is headed. If we're generous to Lovie because of the late hire and call 2016 Year Zero, this would be second-year Brohm vs. second-year Smith.
46-7. At our place.
Now, yes, if you read my SOC last night, I did expect Purdue to win. And expected Purdue to score 40. And I thought Purdue would easily cover (I had it 40-24). So if Smalling catches that touchdown (we got zero points on that drive) and we get a garbage TD late, sure, maybe the score is 46-21 and it's more or less the game I expected. I could maybe make that argument.
But when the yards are 611-250, with Purdue having 400 of those before halftime, and when we punt nine times against the #81 defense in the nerdstats (how?), and when this generally looks like an FBS team playing an FCS team, you can't make that argument. I expected a fairly easy Purdue victory, but I did not expect total and complete domination.
Which takes me to the "worst loss since?" place. As I said in the intro to the From The Stands post, I think the answer is Minnesota 2011. That was a horrific Minnesota team (2-9 going into the game), we were 6-5, and we put up 152 total yards and lost 27-7. That was my last moment like this. There have been really bad losses (Arizona State 2012, Michigan State 2013, Wisconsin 2016, Iowa 2017), but nothing felt this desperate. I remember watching that game in Boulder, Colorado while one of our boys was visiting colleges, wondering how it's possible to suddenly look that inept. Tonight, I'm wondering how it's possible to suddenly look that inept.
I mean, I guess this is what the stats were telling us all along. That post I wrote after the South Florida game (Stats Aren't Helping) included these paragraphs:
The postgame win expectancy this year is... alarming. Against Kent State it was 92% - our domination in the second half was legit. Against Western Illinois it was, let's see here.... 49%.
~record scratches off~
49%? Meaning, statistically, Western Illinois should have won that game? Yes, statistically, with total yards being even + the field position Western had + their big play ability on offense, if we play that same game 100 times, they win 51 and we win 49.
South Florida? Now it gets really ugly: 4%. Meaning, we play THAT game 100 times - same yards, same big plays, same field position, same turnovers - South Florida wins 96 times. That "close" game we saw was us nearly getting once-every-25-games lucky.
I mean, one only had to look at the total yards (626-380) to realize how lucky we were that the game was close, but 4% is fairly stunning. That was a 51-20 South Florida win... that turned into 25-19 because of missed field goals, 15 USF penalties, and long drives for South Florida that ended in zero points time after time after time. They shot themselves in the foot so many times that they almost let us win.
That doesn't help my mood when trying to evaluate where we stand so far this season. You just can't count on teams to shoot themselves in the foot 23 times. You have to put up yards and make big plays (and you have to limit yards and prevent big plays) if you want to win consistently. And we're giving up 6.4 yards per play so far this season, which is 104th out of 130 teams.
So really, today was a correction. Meaning, the Illinois team you've thought was "hanging" with South Florida and Penn State really wasn't hanging as much as they were getting ALL the turnovers. When I go back and read that post, I'm not sure why today was such a surprise to me. Many of you have been asking why I had gone so negative lately, and reading that again, I was pretty much saying "um, guys, this team is actually really bad". Why did I predict losses in the last four games (including Rutgers)? It was because of those stats. And those stats are what we saw play out today - yards without the huge turnover margin.
Where do we go from here? I've already answer that question several thousand times (do a total and complete program rebuild one time before I die where the coach gets five full years no questions asked), but you don't want to hear that right now. You see Iowa State beating WVU, Virginia beating Miami, Purdue beating us, and you don't want to hear that right now. I've already committed to that view for five full years, and I'm not going to change (I mean, the whole point of that view was to leave "stick to it - keep going" notes to myself for times like this), but you are certainly welcome to leave me on that bandwagon by myself. I wouldn't listen to me anymore.
We're now at the halfway point of those five years. Like, the exact halfway point. Yes, Lovie's first class only has 18 games under their belts (of their 48), so it's not technically "halfway" for YearZero-ists, but we've played 30 of the 60 games in those five years I keep talking about. And we've won eight of them. And perhaps more importantly if we're halfway through this rehab, the defense has gotten worse every season. I can understand a step back in 2017 with all of the freshmen, but then they all become sophomores and it gets significantly worse? How?
I'm sure I'll get to Thursday and I'll calm down and regroup like I always do. 5-7 is still technically attainable. 4-8 was what I predicted, and that just takes one more win. Still the youngest team in the country, November needs to be better than September, blah blah blah. When I laid out all of the upcoming months in my season preview in 2017, October 2018 was listed as the "wait, are we sure this is going somewhere?" month.
But that was imagining a 28-24 loss to Purdue. 46-7 suggests that this is going absolutely nowhere (and fast). October 12, 2019? Good God do I want to remove that from my Twitter bio right now. October 12, 2019 looks like a 51-3 Michigan win from here.
I'm just babbling now. It's 11:55 pm and I'm not going to be able to sleep so I'm not sure why I'll even try. This thing I spend so much energy towards just had it's worst day in at least a half-dozen years and I have no idea how to cope besides repeating "play the freshmen as soon as you can, take your lumps, look for the payoff in 2019 and 2020" over and over.
Mad? Not really. Disappointed? Unimaginably.