Nov 30, 2019

This wasn't the rain. The rain basically stopped in the first quarter. This wasn't the injuries. Yes, our 10 points and 160 total yards were Peters and the three starting receivers being out, but 378 yards rushing for the worst offense in the Big Ten was nothing other than an old-fashoined whoopin'. Line up, wet field so it's going to be a slopfest, who wants it more? They wanted it more. So, so much more.

I rarely do this, but I've started this post before the end of the game. As Northwestern racks up more yards, I keep going up to adjust the total rushing yards listed above. We know the result here, so I figure I might as well just get started. And as I type that, Northwestern converts a fourth down for a touchdown while trying to run out the clock. HOOOO-boy.

I've been doing that game comp thing this year and now we have a comp for Purdue. We went to Purdue and dominated in the slop. Northwestern came here and dominated in the same way. So I think this 6-6 season has comps across the board now.

Wet games where one team dominated the line of scrimmage: Purdue win, Northwestern loss
One team clearly dominated the other team in a complete mismatch: Akron win, Minnesota loss
Field goal in the NEZ of Memorial Stadium decides the outcome: Wisconsin win, Eastern Michigan loss
Illinois has the ball, down four, driving for the winning score: Michigan State win, Nebraska loss
"That game really shouldn't have been that close for the favorite": 8-point UConn win, 9-point Iowa loss
"Whoa, this game is tight" and then two quick turnovers and the game is over: Rutgers win, Michigan loss

There's even symmetry with the schedule. Two wins, then four losses, then four wins, then two losses.

(I've gone with Mahler 9 today, and the recording I have of Mahler 9 rolls right into the one movement of Mahler 10 which he kind of finished before his death but not really. It's rarely performed because it kind of just stops. But you can tell he was writing about his own death. Gustav has guided me through this entire season.)

Overall, I'm perfectly content with this season. I predicted 7-5, we finished 6-6, but with everything factored in (who we beat, how we beat them, NERDstats, schedule, turnover luck, injuries), I think 6-6 is solid for a year-before-the-year. These last two losses (and especially if there's a bowl loss meaning a "losing season") will sting all offseason, but we've finally arrived at The Season. All those freshmen who started in 2017 will be seniors, all these injured players will return, and we'll either get The Season or we'll start a different journey with a different coach.

I might have eventually said I regretted uttering "five full years for the new coach, no questions asked" an hour after Cubit was fired, but now we're finally here. There are no experience excuses, there are no "Cubit left the OL room empty" excuses, there are no "you just can't build depth by this point if you take over right after a scandal", nothing. We're finally at "we expect a big season". I'm so thrilled these seniors get to go out with a bowl, and then the next set of seniors - time to summit the mountain. As I said a few weeks ago... we won with turnovers this year; time to win with yards next year.

This game? Man, what a gutpunch. It's so hard to have to tell everyone I know that my team is OWNED by Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern. Even when they're having a 3-9 season, we can't beat them. If we lose next year, will the streak reach 10? Completely and totally owned by a team that wanted it more from the first snap. Four yards, then four yards, then four yards, on repeat all afternoon. That's not "Iowa concussed our quarterback". That's the eighth-worst offense in all of college football putting up yard after yard. TWENTY TWO first downs for an offense worse than Rutgers. Awful awful awful.

I keep referencing the injuries under the assumption that everyone read my post last night. So I should probably go over that. With Bhebhe out (and then Doug Kramer injured in the first half), the offense was missing 6 starters from the opener and the defense was missing four (technically five on defense, but that's only because Sydney Brown was injured for Akron and didn't start). There's not enough depth to fully overcome that. There should be enough depth to not get completely housed by the worst Northwestern team this century, but it's still a big hurdle.

By the end of that post I talked myself out of a loss (I always do that) and predicted a non-cover but win. In the end, I should have stuck with my gut. If you read the whole post, it's "at some point this implodes upon these injuries". It imploded, baby. And then some. Injuries made it a 10-10 game. Our failure to battle in the trenches made it 29-10.

So now we head into Bowl Selection Sunday (not tomorrow - next week. I can understand why you're not aware of that) with a bad taste in our mouths. I'll likely be back to researching bowl projections tomorrow (thing discussed at a party last night - kind of want Detroit?). For now, losing to Pat Fitzgerald again and confirming his worldview has stolen my happiness. Even in a season where someone finally reveals the little man behind the curtain, he turns around and forces us all to shut up. So I'll shut up.

Up next? ACC in Detroit (Florida State?), SEC in New York City (Tennessee?), or Pac 12 in Santa Clara (Cal?). I'm going to stop typing now and just try to think about that.

Because thinking about how much Northwestern just completely owns us is so incredibly depressing.


No bowl, no tourney on November 30 @ 03:59 PM CST

This felt a bit like the Eastern Michigan game (who finished 6-6 in the MAC btw). Like I was watching the game realizing the other team was better in execution and scheme even though I knew we should be better. It's all there in black and white on paper! But alas, they held the upper hand all day. They fell forward on seemingly every play. Like you said, they wanted it more. It appeared A LOT more.

Lack of urgency- nothing sinks a team faster.

ATOillini on November 30 @ 05:32 PM CST

I’m going to take a deep breath and celebrate this season for the two miracle wins. One of those was actually against a really good team.

When I saw the players sitting out this game, I had a not so good feeling before it started. Then throw in the loss of Kramer in the first half.....We still don’t have any room for error. Consider that Bhebhe has more than twice the yards of the #2 receiver. In fact he’s the only one with over 300 yards total on the year.

Agree with your analysis here. Hopefully a good showing in a bowl game and elevated expectations for next year.

DB50 on November 30 @ 06:35 PM CST

I understand losing to Iowa at Kinnick but really owning the line of scrimmage. One short week later, being totally owned at the line of scrimmage after Bobby Roundtree makes a surprise visit and gives the entire team an inspirational talk??? I mean W T F, to your instate rival on senior day, have you no pride Illini???????? Unbelievable!

ktal on November 30 @ 07:04 PM CST

Really disappointing performance. I sure hope the recruiting class coming up will provide depth. Clearly we need it.

On the plus side, we beat the B1G West champs.

DB50 on November 30 @ 07:05 PM CST

One final thing on pride, in 2011 Illinois played Northwestern at Wrigley field in a wonky game where all offenses could only go in one direction due to the makeup of the field. The night before, Illinois players were at Wrigley and someone from Northwestern thought it would be cute to put on the scoreboard Northwestern 21 Illinois 0. The Illini failed to see the humor and came out the next day to own the game. Mikel Leshore rushed for 330 yards! It was Illini pride on prednisone. God I miss that type of passion!

No bowl, no tourney on November 30 @ 08:47 PM CST

Ha. Awesome post. Maybe my most fun Illini game to attend (although I remember seeing an improbable comeback against Indiana in the late 80s when my sister went there). I loved watching the Illini rush for over 500 yards in the Northwestern "home" game. I want to say we went on to beat RG III in the Texas Bowl that year. Good times. Let's being 'en back! This team needs to display more desire though.

HiggsBoson on November 30 @ 07:37 PM CST

That was well and truly embarrassing. Outcoached and outplayed again by a bad Northwestern team. If a bowl had been on the line, this loss would have been the one to fire Lovie Smith after. Even so, programs with any pride fire coaches after losing a rivalry game like that, especially at home.

Does anybody think they'll keep the bowl game closer than 48-6?

My friends tell me the Fire Lovie Express is back in business.

Illiniiniowa on November 30 @ 09:22 PM CST

Your friends need to stop overreacting to one game. We were competitive in 10/12 games this year. Lovie isn't going anywhere for a while.

Groundhogday on November 30 @ 10:53 PM CST

If we finish 7-5, maybe Lovie survives a disappointing 6-6 2020 season? As it is, for most the jury is still out on Lovie. Clearly he is back next year. But this will be a make or break season.

HiggsBoson on December 01 @ 10:40 AM CST

It's not just one game. This IS Lovie's Smith's historical mean at Illinois. Statistically, the good games are the flukes until proven otherwise.

Looking back. this was worse than I originally thought. Senior Day, at home, rivalry game, playing for a better bowl at 7-5, Whitman yapping about everybody needing to come out for the game -- and Bobby Roundtree in the house to provide inspiration. And they crapped the bed and got dominated on both sides of the ball by a bad team.

larue on November 30 @ 08:37 PM CST

The Pinstripe is also an ACC opponent, Pitt and Louisville are the teams I've seen projected there mostly.

Groundhogday on November 30 @ 10:09 PM CST

Whelp, a good bowl performance is now essential for momentum into next season.

HiggsBoson on December 01 @ 10:41 AM CST

That would be nice, but I'm not expecting it to happen.

Lanta on December 01 @ 08:46 PM CST

enter image description here

Brave Illini on December 01 @ 11:03 AM CST

A few years ago, ok more than a few, I stopped going on roller coaster rides. Just couldn't handle the physical effects any more. I'm to the same point with Lovie Smith. I can't handle the emotional stress of roller coaster performances any longer. I was there yesterday and the differences between the two teams on the field were so significant as to be unexplainable. Of all the players, and coaches, the only two on the Illinois side I would choose are our punter and place kicker. If this was an isolated incident I could handle it. But it wasn't, sadly. The lack of even a decent performance in this game, as well as other games against supposedly inferior talent, is just beyond what is acceptable for a program like ours, with all the resources and other attributes of a great University, in a premier conference. I don't know what to do, give up, keep rooting and re swing my season tickets, move to Ohio

Brave Illini on December 01 @ 11:06 AM CST

I cannot continue on this emotional roller coaster. I've tried hard to think Lovie Smith can be a good head coach at our great University. But every time my hopes rise up, they get dashed. Is this what a POW experiences?

Brave Illini on December 01 @ 11:07 AM CST

Sorry, re swing should be renewing.

Groundhogday on December 01 @ 01:42 PM CST

When the dust settles, the Nerd stats will probably have us 10-11th in the league, somewhere in the 70 +/- range. That isn't great by any stretch, but clearly an improvement over years 1-3. Unfortunately, it is impossible to say right now whether this is a one year blip into decent football that will vanish with the loss of Brown/Corbin/Bebe/Milan/Harding or part of a transition into good football.

For now, I think we can all agree that this team is clearly (1) out of the basement; and (2) improved over last season. This buys Lovie a 5th season to show us what he can do.

F/+ trend

  • 2019_57 (will drop when NW game included)
  • 2018__108
  • 2017__119
  • 2016__103

Current F/+

  • 1Ohio State
  • 8Wisconsin
  • 9Penn State
  • 10_Michigan
  • 13_Minnesota
  • 19_Iowa
  • 29_Indiana
  • 36_Michigan State
  • 57_Illinois
  • 58_Nebraska
  • 63_Purdue
  • 95_Northwestern
  • 107__Maryland
  • 121__Rutgers

Groundhogday on December 01 @ 01:52 PM CST

What this means for next season is that if we project this season forward, Illinois will be favored in the first 4 games (3 cream puff + Rudgers), then perhaps against Purdue at home.

Illinois will have to improve substantially relative to peers just to match this year's 6-6 record. I'm not sure we can count on PU and NW having two down years in a row, and I'd bet Nebby hits their stride in Frost Year 3. So how will Illinois become a much better team next year?

Brave Illini on December 01 @ 02:26 PM CST

The problem is that this enigmatic team blows projections out of the water. We defy all conventions. Befuddling.

HiggsBoson on December 01 @ 06:11 PM CST

Enigmatic seems right. Time to move on to basketball until there's some actual football news to report.

illinisludge on December 01 @ 09:40 PM CST

Very disturbing that one of the poorest offenses in the nation steamrolled the Illini D. Maybe Craig Has The Scout can explain what happened. Did they outscheme the Illini? Did Lovie have a sound plan and NU just out executed them? Some combination of the above? The defensive performances against NU, EMU, Neb, and Minny by a defensive minded coach are too much to overlook. I know they had some good games against Purdon’t and Iowa. But for me this season and these performances remove very little doubt about Lovie.

Speak Your Mind

Please login or register to post comments on the IlliniBoard.