A Few More Rutgers Things
As I'm sitting here furiously working on the basketball preview (out TUESDAY), football thoughts keep popping into my head. I know, right? Me? Thinking about football while basketball is starting? So I'm going to write a few of them down just to get them out of my head.
First off, I never posted my player interviews from yesterday. I am dumb. So here they are. I decided to do all all Metro-East interview session (I'm a born-and-bred Metro-Easter, dontchaknow). So I went Columbia (Jordan Holmes, whose 33 punt return yards yesterday aren't being talked about enough), then Belleville (Keith Randolph), and then East St. Louis (Stanley Green). I'd already talked Imo's Pizza with Holmes last year, but I don't think I'd ever talked Imo's with Randolph or Green. So that's a warning. If you don't want to hear some Metro-Easters talking about why Chicago people don't understand the greatness of Imo's, skip down below.
Here's a few other random thoughts:
+ I watched the replay of the Dele Harding pick six. And the Rutgers freshman QB, so mad at himself for throwing that ball, was trying to fight past an army of blockers to try to keep it to just a pick and not a pick six. One final block from Kenyon Jackson sent him out of bounds and you could see the frustration in his body language. That kid played hard yesterday, and to see it all fall apart as your 2-7 (headed for 2-10) football team crumbles beneath you has to be a frustrating thing. You have to question why you even try.
Which made me think of Harding. He played as a true freshman, so he was there for the 3-9 in 2016 and the 2-10 in 2017. I'm sure there were moments exactly like that for him (so many moments) where we're down a bazillion to 3 and you really start to question those 6:00 am lifts in the summer. Why even do this?
Well, for these last three weeks. That's why you do this. I kinda hope that Rutgers QB gets a good coach and maybe they can make a surge during his senior year just like Harding is experiencing now. That much losing needs to have a payoff.
+ After watching the game again (there's so many things you just don't see from the pressbox that you can see so much better on film), here's a few thoughts on players I should have talked about more.
- Jordan Holmes. He was one tackle away from breaking our first punt return for a TD in a long time. Finished with 33 punt return yards on the day. Those bouncing punts that he stepped up and grabbed made me think of 2011. In the early days of the blog, I wrote about 33 posts about how Zook would instruct the punt returners to just let the punts bounce away (he was afraid of muffed punts) and how many yards that cost us. In 2011, we had 39 punt return yards on the season. Holmes had 33 yesterday.
- Milo Eifler. I undersold it in my postgame post. He was better than great. He was awesome out there.
- Isaiah Gay. Is this finally the lightbulb for Gay? He had such an amazing debut as a freshman (remember the Western Kentucky game?) and then we haven't seen that kind of production since. Until yesterday.
- Alec McEachern. Walkon linebacker turned... fullback? He was in on offense on the Dre Brown direct snap and make the key block that opened the hole for the touchdown. Long line of linebackers turned "guy who blocks people real good" on offense in Champaign. Nate Echard... Austin Roberts... Alec McEachern?
- Doug Kramer. Grayshirt who wasn't going to play football his first semester turned member of the 2016 recruiting class turned... All Big Ten center his redshirt junior year?
OK, I'll get back to basketball now. Go Illini.