Welcome To Last Year

Sep 01, 2018

I feel like I'm writing the same post 365 days later. Maybe I should just save time and do a cut-and-paste or something. Do a word search, replace "Ball State" with "Kent State", publish. It should have been the same game, but it was the same game. And that's wildly concerning.

I mean, here are the similarities:

  • Ball State and Kent State were both bad MAC teams in the midst of a rebuild - Ball State in their second year, Kent State in their first.
  • Last year we played 15 newcomers in the Ball State game and I went on and on about how we'd never see this again (12 freshmen, 2 redshirt freshmen, and a juco junior in that game). This year we played... 13 newcomers in the Kent State game (9 freshmen, 1 redshirt freshman, 2 juco sophomores, and a fifth-year senior QB).
  • In both games, the winning touchdown was set up in the 4th quarter by a great punt return by Mikey Dudek.
  • A bunch of players we thought would play were suspended and could not play. Way more this year than last year - five players (three starters) were announced as suspended before the game, with two more taking "academic redshirts" this season.
  • We needed a defensive stop at the very end to keep Ball/Kent State from tying the game (Ball State had a field goal attempt that we blocked; Kent State had a fourth-and-goal that we stopped).

This was the same game. Losing to a bad (like, BAD) MAC team and the crowd is booing and then somehow we pull it out in the end. I mean, I'm glad we won, but WERF. This year is not supposed to look like last year.

I mean, the whole point of a last year is to avoid a this year. You play 22 freshmen because then the next year you look a little better. But we didn't look a little better. Offense, yes, but defense, not an ounce better. Significantly worse, actually.

There was good. I'm sure I'll do some bullet points below talking about the good, especially in the second half, but mercy, there was so much bad. I don't even know how to write about it. Things like:

  • Giving up 453 yards against a team that only put up 275 yards per game last year.
  • A kickoff returner catching the ball at the three and running out of bounds.
  • Running a play with 1:20 on the clock and Kent State having only one timeout when we could have taken three knees and ended the game. (And running that play out of the shotgun.) (And watching the tailback flip in the air on a play where all we had to do was take a knee.)
  • Getting the ball back, up 7, with a chance to ice the game away, against a dead-tired Kent State defense, and going three-and-out because the quarterback tried to bounce a sure first down outside to pick up more yardage.
  • Grabbing an interception and then fumbling it (we recovered the fumble, thankfully).
  • Having a kick return set up for a 35+ yard return but having it whistled dead because one of the up-men signaled for a fair catch.

I mean, I get that we're young, but do we have to make THAT many mistakes in one game? Those are the kinds of mistakes we made last year. And I mostly brushed them off with "look, we're the youngest team in college football the last 15 years - these things are going to happen this season". But now it's the next season and they're still happening.

When we lost to Purdue in 2016 and started playing all the freshmen, I said that we'd have 25 games where we'd learn nothing. And then, after that, things would (hopefully) improve rapidly. Well, there's now five "learn nothing" games left and then I'm supposed to see rapid improvement. And we look nowhere close to "rapid improvement". We look the same as we did last year. Maybe even a little worse.

I mean..................

+ OK, let's try to find some positives. No, really, there were positives. We beat Kent freaking State by 7 after trailing 17-7 at halftime but here I am counting positives. I have to. I can't go insane. Let's do a top three. No, four.

  1. Jake Hansen. Set at Illini record for tackles for loss today (six TFL's). If we didn't suck, he'd be Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. There's no way a player with 15 tackles including six tackles for loss should not be the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. But I'm sure some Penn State linebacker had 11 tackles and an interception so he'll get it. (Still, Hansen, man, what a game. Seems like he's the anchor of the defense for three seasons.)
  2. AJ Bush. After a very shaky first half (as I tweeted in the first quarter, he looked really shaky out there with happy feet - nothing like what we saw in camp). By the second half, he settled down. Final Stats: 13 for 23, 190 yards, plus 156 rushing yards on 21 carries. Now, that rushing yardage was under 100 yards before his 40-yard run and 20-yard run to ice the game (when Kent State was selling out trying to force a punt with nine guys in the box and he slipped free with one guy to beat), but still, 350 yards rushing and receiving is a great debut.
  3. Quan Martin. I asked freshman cornerback Jartavius Martin after the game if he preferred Jartavius or the name his family/coaches call him: "Quan". He said he prefers Quan. So henceforth it's Quan Martin. And get used to hearing that name, because my 2018 Asamoah Award Winner showed out in his first game - an interception, a PBU, and four tackles in his first ever-start. Long way to go, lots to learn, but I feel really good about cornerback with Hobbs, Adams, Watkins, and Martin. Just need to get Hobbs and Adams back.
  4. Reggie Corbin. Out of the doghouse and into the endzone. After finding Garrick McGee's doghouse and barely playing last year, Corbin burst onto the scene this game with 10 carries for 79 yards and two touchdowns including the play of the game - a tightrope-walking 39-yard TD down the west sideline. From my view I thought he stepped out, but on replay he didn't.

+ Let's dig into some of the stats I monitored last year. I remember that we matched Ball State in yards per play in the first game (both teams were 4.4 YPP, and that was a big signal for the season). Today: Illinois 6.4 YPP, Kent State 5.4. Better for the offense, worse for the defense. Which is encouraging (we might put up yards this year!) and frightening (we might not stop anyone this year!).

Time of possession we lost 32:03 to 27:57. With a defense this young (and this thin with suspensions), that's scary. Really hard to hold up for 60 minutes against any Big Ten opponent. Keep failing to win the TOP battle (and play like this) and yeah, we're not going to win a Big Ten game this year. Hey, that sounds familiar!

+ The whole game was more or less the Kent State fourth downs. They were 4 for 6 converting fourth downs. The four conversions led to two (maybe three?) touchdowns. The two stops, we A) drove the ball down and scored (in three plays, all Corbin runs) and B) picked off the game-tying touchdown pass in the final moments.

Yay, right?

("We picked off the game-tying touchdown pass in the final moments". There's the whole game story right there.)

+ The suspensions and injuries - we need to talk about them. Suspended: B. Williams, N. Hobbs, C. Green, D. Pate, and L. Dorsey. Academic redshirts who will not play this season as they get their grades in order: Larry Boyd and Verdis Brown.

When you take this defense and you remove the best safety (Bennett Williams, suspended indefinitely), the best cornerback (Nate Hobbs, suspended indefinitely), your second or third-best corner (Tony Adams, injured hand), and your best defensive lineman (Jamal Milan, injured knee), then you're in big trouble heading into any game. Especially a sweltering game like this one where you needed a rotation of 30 guys on the defense.

When Milan went down, Lere Oladipo was starting in his spot at camp. Now Oladipo is hurt as well, so that defensive tackle rotation was down to four guys - Jamal Woods (moved in from DE), Tymir Oliver, Kenyon Jackson, and Calvin Avery.

And the secondary without Williams, Hobbs, and Adams is pretty much Stanley Green (JR), Cam Watkins (JR), and then ALL NEWCOMERS. I don't know what these guys did to get suspended, but they have to be feeling how much they hurt their team tonight.

+ But I saved this point for last. This was not why we barely beat Kent State today. This one can't be chalked up to youth and seven suspensions. This needed to be a step forward from last year and it wasn't. It just wasn't.

It was last year again.


CAIllini on September 01 @ 05:23 PM CDT

Agree...unsettling win. Not the type of progress I was hoping to witness. Let's see if they can make major strides in the next few weeks....

MuckFichigan92 on September 01 @ 05:36 PM CDT

Poor youth movement when you run off players only to fill their spots with guys who get suspended. Special teams needs to be emphasized. Way too erratic: dumb then great.

CapitalCityOutlaw50 on September 01 @ 05:55 PM CDT

(I think) I passed you with 1 minute remaining and the game in hand on the West Balcony. Was going to say "Hi"- we have talked before during the game years ago. The expression on your face was not of a happy man. I nodded and continued walking. Reading this, I believe I made the right decision. (I know you're a nice guy IRL)

mrozny on September 01 @ 06:14 PM CDT

I would say this is nothing like the Ball St game. The Ball St. game we played poorly in the first half, and played just as bad in the second half. Ball St. did not take advantage of our mistakes in the first half, unlike a game Kent St team that had a 4 star Auburn transfer QB. This year we played very poorly in the first half and played significantly better in the second half. It is that trend that makes me hopeful. Also lastly in the Ball St game last year we were out scored in the second half and we didn't have a new OC and a "new" QB.

orngblu on September 01 @ 06:30 PM CDT

Seems like 7 suspensions on a team lacking depth and experience would be a big factor. As mrozny pointed out, I don't remember who Ball State's QB was, but Barrett had 11 P5 offers including Auburn, Alabama, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Wisconsin coming out of high school. Also, it was 17-3 at halftime, and there was 1:23 left for the last 3 plays. GO ILLINI!

ktal on September 01 @ 08:50 PM CDT

Three of your 'things we did badly' list were directly attributable to newcomers Bush, Stampley and Q. Martin. So your complaint that 'we played the newbies last year so we wouldn't make the same mistakes this year', doesn't fit. This goes to the heart of the 2nd year or 3rd year debate; Lovie's longest serving recruits are true sophomores. That's what 2nd year coaches have to play with. We'll be making newbie-mistakes for the next five games, (and then, rapid improvement!)

Kent State's QB threw 18 more passes than A.J., but only three more incompletions. Barrett's QB rating (85) was 30 points above Bush's (55). If that's as bad as all our competition plays all year, we're sunk.

AJ had a completion percentage over 50% (13/23), which is better than we've had in a long time. But he got away with some truly poor decisions tonight. Hopefully that will stop.

IBFan on September 01 @ 09:05 PM CDT

Lots of positives in this game....Watkins, Hansen, Phillips, Harding...even Ware made some good plays and hits for the defense. Very excited about the defense when it gets back half of its best players. AJ Bush is better than Nathan, the line did a good job- how many sacks and Tfls? Backs are strong, receivers are talented. 28 points in a half? Ty. Blake is a stud..."stud" about a punter, that's how good he is. Kickoffs thru the end zone, 50yrd fg, strong. Punt/kick return.....ouch. Penalties non existent, no interceptions...defense with two picks Robert! A coach holding players accountable, the players on the field gutting it out...kudos.

uilaw71 on September 02 @ 04:04 AM CDT

Watched the podcast as Mr. Grumps (aka Robert) was driving home, just now reading the post and responses. This one sums up my feelings.

How often have you addressed the long haul, Robert? When did we last overcome a 14 (not 10) pount halftime deficit? And Smalling dropping a perfectly thrown bomb on our first possession is not on Bush.

And then there’s the accountability issue. Are you pissed because no one will give you the inside scoop? If it’s not that, why then are you seeing it as a negative? Those frosh acquitted themselves well in the second half.

Come on, man, this team laid it on the line when another more talented squad (think Zook’s last Minny game) would have quit.

Lighten up, Robert. Nothing in this game undermined your preview tome.

Joe Edge on September 02 @ 12:58 PM CDT

Agree - and I'm all in for the 'long-haul' approach... Stay the course.

Also, the Under-Armor All-American QB for KSU was demonstrating that his ranking was justified - did Ball St. have an all-American QB last year ? I can't remember that far back..

On another NOTE: Comcast has restored the BTN network to out-of-market areas, as I watched the game in my Seattle home. Also want to point to another reason for the 'long-haul' approach: After the Illini game, I watched a little of the Iowa vs No. Illinois game. This game marked the 10th anniversary for coach Ferentz.. Tying the number of years Fry was the coach.... Longevity pays off... WHEN will we learn this lesson ? ? ? ?

Bear8287 on September 01 @ 09:30 PM CDT

This year is not supposed to look like last year.

I guess my question would be, why not? Sure, we should expect some improvement, but isn't this youngest Div 1 program meet youngest Div 1 program?

Those are the kinds of mistakes we made last year. And I mostly brushed them off with "look, we're the youngest team in college football the last 15 years - these things are going to happen this season". But now it's the next season and they're still happening.

Just a coincidence that we're still the youngest Div 1 program?

Well, there's now five "learn nothing" games left and then I'm supposed to see rapid improvement.

That's the hope. Still might be a bit early though.

We beat Kent freaking State by 7 after trailing 17-7 at halftime

After signing a new contract with Comcast because they told me that they hadn't heard anything about dropping BTN, guess which channel doesn't even show up on my guide now? Yeah, so full disclosure, I didn't see this game, but from everything I've seen, weren't the Illini down 17-3 at the half?

But I'm sure some Penn State linebacker...

Ha! Any B1G team needing OT to beat Appalachian State at home doesn't deserve any B1G honors.

Really hard to hold up for 60 minutes against any Big Ten opponent. Keep failing to win the TOP battle (and play like this) and yeah, we're not going to win a Big Ten game this year. Hey, that sounds familiar!

Yes, it does. My question to everyone predicting 5 or more wins this season is to name them. Which B1G teams does this team beat? BTW, Maryland knocked off 23rd ranked Texas today. So much for them taking a dive.

This needed to be a step forward from last year and it wasn't. It just wasn't.

It needs to be a step forward and this season could be a big step forward and the record may not be much different than last year.

If OSU or Alabama had the youngest Div 1 team, it's almost conceivable that they might win 6 games and get to some bowl game just based on their ability to recruit top talent. Does this seem reasonable? With the ginormus gap in recruiting between Illinois and those programs, why would anyone have that kind of expectation for this Illini team?

Robert, you talk about recruiting talent, recruiting for fit and experience. Here are the Illini again with a new O.C. and the youngest team in Div 1. If you just knew that about any program and didn't attach a name to them, where would people expect them to finish?

I really was hoping that you were going to finish Training Camp 2018 XI: Revisiting The Expansion Team

I thought that you were going to sort of come back to your "roots" so to speak and just point out that it would be a challenge for any team this young (no matter the school on the jersey) to be really competitive in a conference like the B1G.

I'm hoping that the Illini show some improvement and keep games close(r). Youth and lack of depth are going to be tough challenges and having so many suspensions and then injuries on top of that and it's going to be really challenging.

We'll congratulations, the Illini beat the #9 team in The Bottom 10 and only needed a come from behind victory at home to do it.

I still believe that this young team's best days are ahead of them (like other seasons ahead of them). My biggest concern isn't the won/loss record this year so much as it is about fans having unrealistic expectations that potentially put this rebuild into jeopardy.

Go Illini!

Illiniiniowa on September 01 @ 09:33 PM CDT

But hey, two interceptions! Yeah!

AHSIllini32 on September 01 @ 11:36 PM CDT

Thanks for the write-up.

I have an issue with listing “we got an int then fumbled it” as a negative. Our true freshman db got an int and got the ball knocked out almost immediately which we then recovered.

Also, didn’t you spend almost the entirety of your season preview and SOC post about the season talking about how we’re still wildly young and how much that matters? Then you’re surprised when we’re out there starting a bunch of true freshman again against a run and gun offense and they struggle in their first half of collegiate football?

MuckFichigan92 on September 02 @ 02:15 AM CDT

FWIW motivation, proof it can be done:


Bear8287 on September 02 @ 02:48 AM CDT

Just a mere 35 years ago... I was at that game. Probably the most euphoric feeling I've had at any sporting event.

I was also at the '78 Northwestern (0-0) game too. Part of what made that '83 game against Michigan so great was how awful Illinois had been in recent years.

Illinifanbobj on September 02 @ 06:23 AM CDT

I disagree with this post. This game was very different from Ball State. Last year, the Illini led 16-7 at the half against Ball st, blew the lead in the 3rd and then came back to win with a TD in the fourth. This year the Illini stuggles mightily in the first but dominated the 2nd half 28-7. Is that a huge difference? Maybe, maybe not. But those are two very different games.

Negative Outlook: Kent St was a bad team and Illinois only beat them by 7 at home. The defense was horrible against an offense that sucked last year. The offense showed some potential but not good enough. Too many cringe mistakes. Illinois won't win a game after Western.

Positive Outlook: Illinois bringing in a new QB that was having 1st game jitters, struggled offensively in thee first half but turned it on in a major way in a dominant 2nd half. If the offense had played that way in the first half, this would have been a rout. The defense struggled but it was missing their 3 best defensive backs and their best defensive lineman. They had to play a lot of freshmen. Plus Kent St had this transfer QB from Auburn who is as or more talented as most QBs we'll play this year. This kid was a blue chip recruit who would have a decent chance at starting on many B10 teams including here. It was a bad break for us that he ended up at Kent St as he makes them way better. Get the suspended/injured players back and this team will definitely show that they've improved.

illiniranger on September 02 @ 07:30 AM CDT

I think we’re going to be OK. Played well in 2H.

DB50 on September 02 @ 08:16 AM CDT

"Nattering Nabobs of Negativism"

Bear8287 on September 02 @ 02:39 PM CDT

Old Spiro. :-D

deadguy on September 02 @ 08:26 AM CDT

I sat in the stands and felt the same way.

When I talk about being disappointed, it has more to do with the Defensive Line than anything else. Kent State's Offensive Line gave up 45 sacks last year. Most of that Offensive Line did not return and they were expected to be worse. Either they took a MAJOR step forward or there's something wrong with our Defensive Line.

I headed into this game excited about the prospect of Roundtree and Gay spending most of the day in Kent State's backfield....and that most certainly did not happen. Why were they not getting pressure on Barrett? He had all day to pass when he wasn't scrambling for first downs on 3rd or 4th and longs. How have Roundtree and Gay gotten worse with a year of experience in addition to S+C? Where is the development with guys like this. They were causing major problems for Ball State and Western Kentucky last year and this year they were total non-factors.

All of the other stuff addressed.....I don't know, I can deal with that. The suspensions, newcomers doing weird things, Bush not being the best QB on the field after being at his 4th school in five years, the way the last possession was handled....I don't care about all that as much as the above. If this defensive line can't get pressure against this Offensive Line, then we're not winning more than 2 games. Barrett had a 68% completion percentage on Saturday. Honestly, it could have been better. He had a 49% completion percentage at Copiah-Lincoln last year.

CapitalCityOutlaw50 on September 02 @ 09:24 AM CDT

Spot on. This plus special teams.

1) The out of bounds at the 3. This dead horse has been beaten enough.

2) Never ONCE attempting the pooch kickoff with the significant wind and a decent or better KO guy. Kicking it through the uprights looks cool and all, but I guess I don't feel the ball at the 25 without forcing a lesser team to 1) field it or 2) attempt to return it - is as optimum of a result as Coach Ligs obviously does.

DB50 on September 02 @ 12:27 PM CDT

Just so I understand you, it would be better to force a team to field a kickoff & return it(possibly getting better field position or a TD) than an automatic touckback, starting from the 25 yd. line & having to go the length of the field to score???

CapitalCityOutlaw50 on September 02 @ 12:59 PM CDT

Most teams practice that, and its much more effective with a wind at your back. Sure worked for Kent. . ..

Illinimac68 on September 02 @ 04:00 PM CDT

Spot on with the defensive line. I also noticed we refuse to rush a fifth or sixth guy on third and long - ever. I understand certain coaches have scheme preferences but wouldn't you break it up every now and then just so there's a bit of mystery for the opposition's offensive staff? I'd be interested in their conversion rate on third and long but it seemed very 2017.

neale stoner on September 02 @ 12:03 PM CDT

Trying to predict the rest of the season from this game is almost as silly as pre-season predictions. Missing too many good players defensively. First time Bush has played an entire game in 5 years. We don’t know how good Kent will be this year. But I agree that without improvement in the trenches, the conference looks very tough. But that’s why they play the games.

San Joaquin on September 02 @ 02:20 PM CDT

Lots of sensible posts on here. Robert has long made my post-graduate Illini existence much more enjoyable (thanks for that). Year after year I know so much more about the squad through his work. That said, I hope he backs himself off the ledge. Result not near as dire as his report and uploads suggested. He could sensibly have prepared to jump at any juncture of that idiot Beckman's regime, but not now.

I've know idea why Wiliiams, Hobbs and crew were suspended. It still feels good, however, to have an adult at the helm. I have no doubt the suspensions were justified, and the examples they set were good. I'd happily send my boy to Lovie and his staff (although growing up going to Cal games in the 80s, I've been biased toward Nickerson for 35 years). Also, Bush seemed to settle in by the second half, and the team had nearly 500 yards of offense with one of our best receivers dropping a big one on the first play. The defense further held Kent to 7 points after adjustments were made, and that was without several starters.

Not expecting the world this year, but the team on the whole is a year better. This "press rewind to Ball State" stuff unduly pessimistic. You've worked hard of late, Robert. Perhaps you could use a short rest. (thumbs up emoji here)

IBFan on September 02 @ 07:00 PM CDT

Just a note about the dropped pass. For those of us lucky(?) enough to have Directtv or some other option to record game and then spend hours rewinding and rewinding plays so we can break down tvfilm, that was a mugging. At any level that is PI, grabbing the receivers' forearm and pulling it behind his body two seconds before the ball gets there is pretty blatant. I think the refs might have needed a warmup game too. Dudek breaking clear and getting tripped up...ok-accidental, but receivers were held and grabbed multiple times. On Smalling super dance and juke after catch play, you can see an orange jersey getting stretched as player was coming open over the middle, easy call. How about the fumble into the end zone? The refs just stood there, no review, no call, ball got spotted and guys ran to the line and went in.

HailToTheOrange on September 02 @ 11:36 PM CDT

Sorry to be a naysayer, but to all of those complaining that Robert is being overly harsh, pessimistic, etc I think are being a little polliana-ish. We probably should have lost to a team picked LAST in a crappy, crappy conference. One unproven 4 star QB and suspensions of 3 defensive starters doesn't make up for what I saw on the field Saturday. I was hoping against hope for a 4 win season. But this game suggested otherwise... I don't see us breaking our B1G losing streak this year.

WeatherfordForMVP on September 03 @ 12:05 AM CDT

Longtime lurker, first time responder. Really enjoy this blog, and echo San Joaquin’s post above about how much info Robert provides to those of us fans who stick with the team through thick and thin but don’t have a lot of options in terms of solid analysis of this stumbling, bumbling program that we hope to be turning a corner. Add the fact that I live in Japan and can never watch these games until Sunday, and only on BTN2GO International on my laptop (a pretty decent product, actually), and I’m not in a position to have inside info on the program.

Reading this post and the responses, I’m very surprised at 1) Robert’s pessimism and 2) almost everyone else’s lack of pessimism. Let’s take those in order.

Robert’s pessimism is very concerning to me. Year after year, he has a considerably better sense of the state of the program than I do. I’m getting a broken link on last year’s season preview, but I believe he was thinking 2, MAYBE 3 wins. And I was like no, 4, MAYBE 5. And Robert was absolutely spot on and I was not. And I was sad. This year Robert is (was?) in the 4, MAYBE 5 camp, right? And I feel comfortable there. I trust him more than I trust myself now.

That said, I’m surprised that others are pushing back on Robert’s pessimism so much. Because that performance was pretty underwhelming on the whole. BUT, Barrett is at least a decent FBS quarterback. AND, that 32-year-old Kent State coach has some stones and made all the right decisions. AND all the suspensions/injuries of key players.

SO, I’m struggling to decide whether I’m more aligned with Robert or more aligned with the majority of the responses. I think I’m more aligned with the majority of the responses, and it has everything to do with the difference between the first 34 minutes and the last 26. (Remember, the Illini went 3-and-out to start the 2nd half and Kent State was marching before the interception.) Let’s extrapolate:

After 34 minutes, the Illini were down 17-3. Extrapolated over the course of an entire game, the Illini lose 30-5. Call it 30-6 to make it a football score. There are legitimate arguments which ensue regarding whether it is the worst loss in the history of the nearly 130-year-old program.

In the final 26 minutes, the Illini won 28-7. Let’s call it 31-10, because under not-end-of-the-game circumstances, both teams would likely have come away with at least field goals in their final possessions. Extrapolated over the course of an entire game, the Illini win 72-23. There are legitimate arguments which ensue regarding whether Lovie was the best hire in the history of the nearly 130-year-old program and most folks are wondering not whether we’ll go to a bowl but how prestigious it will be.

That the final 26 minutes came after the first 34 is important in terms of morale/momentum/moxie. But the Illini will lose every one of their last ten games if they play 34 consecutive minutes as poorly as the played the first 34 minutes against Kent State, regardless of their morale/momentum/moxie. On the other hand, if they play as well for 26-minute stretches against B1G opponents as they did in the last 26 minutes against Kent State (AND the suspensions get resolved) they could go bowling. And I’m leaning towards trusting those final 26 minutes moreso than the first 34…and that is largely informed by Robert’s reporting. We shall see.

Question for those who historically have followed these things more than I have: Are the indefinite suspensions really indefinite, or can we translate that as “suspended until our first real test against USF”?

Bear8287 on September 03 @ 10:11 AM CDT

There's no way a player with 15 tackles including six tackles for loss should not be the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.

Here ya go:

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The Hardcard on September 03 @ 10:22 AM CDT

First off, this is a great fan site, I just hit a little jam, but plan to subscribe very soon. Sadly, I can’t see the games, but hear the internet radio cast.

Robert, I can’t believe you and everyone has sidestepped the biggest change, and why this game was nothing like last year:

Four long drives where the offense imposed it will, capped by simply punching into the endzone. How many of those happened all of last season, let alone Ball State?

Is my memory bad? I remember very few drives, and eben when they happened, it felt more like luck than an offense in control. On the rare red zone occasion last year, I never had confidence they could get into the enzone. Each score felt like watching someone cross an urban freeway blindfolded, “Oh! I can’t believe he made it!”

Differently, much differently, the last two touchdown drives, I felt like it would take a fluke Kent State play to stop us. Never felt that last year. Not even the Western Kentucky game, which about defensive dominance.

I don’t feel we can yet make full year projections based on the really bad first half. Are there fundamental flaws or was the team just 34 minutes late getting ready for the season? Unfortunately, next week can only reveal if it’s bad. We’ll have to wait until USF to see if it’s actually good.

tgb on September 04 @ 10:17 AM CDT

I’m surprised nobody has mentioned the lousy clock management right before halftime. (Reminded me of the Zook years). Quick recap: Ball on the Illini 39 yard line, 53 secs left and 1 TO. First play, Busch RUN for 3 yards. 22 secs ran off the clock before the next snap. 2nd play, pass attempt, Busch runs out of bounds. 23 secs left, Busch runs for 3 yds and a 1st down. Ball on KS 48 yd line, ball spiked with 13 secs left. 2nd down, pass play to KS 32 Yd line. TO called. 6 secs left, missed 49 yd field goal. I was at the game and I think most of the booing was because of frustration with the clock management. Came home and watched that sequence and the announcers were questioning the run calls. The run on first down used almost half of the time left, and a more aggressive play calling could have maybe resulted in a closer field goal and a better chance for 3 pts. Would have been nice to have a 10 pt. lead when KS started the last drive.

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