Postscript, UConn

Sep 09, 2019

My glass is almost always half full.

It's not a conscious choice. It's just the way I am. We all have roles to play, and mine is usually the optimist.

I get self-conscious about it sometimes, like maybe I'm not being pragmatic because I don't worry as much as everyone else. It's especially true when it comes to sports. Sports fans are never content, always worried about something.

Robert went all music theory on us in his postgame writeup, so I'll call upon some music to help me make my point as well. The band Set It Off has a song called "Why Worry," and the refrain ends with:

When worry is never helping
Tell me why, why worry at all?

That's where I'm at. Did any of the wailing and gnashing of teeth about the Miles Smith hire make a difference? Did it help, like, at all? In the end, it was either going to be a fine hire or it was going to be the final nail in Lovie's coffin. And all we could do was wait to see which it was.

I'm getting off track, but the point is: I most often find myself seeing the best-case scenario, and not worrying about the "what if?"s. Such was the case after Saturday's game. The first text I sent to my buddy AJ after Saturday's win was, "Glass half full: road win against an FBS team without your two best offensive players and a defensive starter." AJ reminded me that they also played the majority of the game with their fourth- and fifth-best safeties, not just down Sydney Brown.

That's the lens through which I've chosen, consciously or unconsciously, to view my sports fandoms. Sometimes, like in the case of Illinois football, it means I'm Charlie Brown and the Illini are Lucy. But I come by it honestly.

-With that in mind, I do view Saturday's game differently than most.

Winning in college football, and winning on the road, is hard. Nebraska found that out Saturday. Purdue found that out in Week 1. Plenty of other teams have had scares in the early weeks.

The win is being discounted because it was ugly and it was against a bad UConn team, but all the things being held up as reasons to be concerned -- turnovers, inability to run the ball, etc. -- are also examples of the adversity overcome by a team that likely wouldn't have overcome that adversity in recent years. Maybe you don't overcome those issues against better teams, but maybe you won't have to.

That's why it's called adversity. Adversity is defined as "difficulties; misfortune." (I went there. What a hack writing technique. Hack is defined as "a writer or journalist producing dull, unoriginal work." Sounds about right.)

In this instance, on this day, they found a way to get past it, and that's worth propping up as a good thing while also noting that it's less than ideal.

-The story of the game, once again, was the defense.

Through two weeks they've now allowed one offensive touchdown, and that was after a turnover at midfield, a one-handed circus catch and three tries at getting two yards on the ground. Their two-game totals:

  • Rushing yards allowed -- 74
  • Yards per rush -- 1.1
  • Total yards per game -- 238.5

Running was supposed to be what UConn did well, too, as Craig noted in CHTS. You can point to a freshman quarterback having success against the secondary (I wonder how much of that was a soft zone predicated on bending but not breaking, and how much different a gameplan might look against Nebraska UNDER THE LIGHTS in two weeks) but this is the Big Ten. Running is a way of life. And through two games, they've been great at stopping it.

-In his postgame press conference Lovie said you won't see the excessive celebration penalties again. And while I want to believe that, I'm skeptical. (See? I can be skeptical, too.)

As Robert noted in his preview and I saw firsthand at practice, Daniel Barker loves a good celebration. Ricky Smalling has swagger. Hell, Ra'Von Bonner got a celebration penalty, and he's not one of the louder voices on the team.

I do think the rules are ridiculous. If guys can't celebrate by stomping around or doing a dance, what are we doing? But they're the rules, and you can't break them. If the line is 0.5 for another excessive celebration penalty between now and the end of the season, I'm hammering the over.

-I think sitting both Reggie Corbin and Sydney Brown was a gambit, and having survived, it was a good one for the team's long-term outlook. I wonder how differently Saturday might have looked with both those guys in there, if maybe we'd be having a different conversation today. So to be 2-0 while also being able to get those guys another week of rest is quietly a big win with what's ahead. It shouldn't go unnoticed.

-In my first-ever Postscript after last year's win over Kent State, I wrote about how Lovie had made his first Big Decision of the year in sticking with AJ Bush coming out of the locker room. Bush had been bad, and the Illini trailed 17-3 at half, and it would have been easy for Lovie to bail on Bush in favor of Matt Robinson. He didn't, and Bush improved, and without Bush they likely wouldn't have won even the four games they did win last year.

The stakes weren't quite as high for Brandon Peters on Saturday, but there was at least a moment when, after the pick-six and the throw that missed a wide open Barker to stall their second drive, doubt about Peters began to creep in. Sure, Akron was fun, but did we _really _assess the game he had? Yeah, three touchdowns, but 14-23 with some really bad misses. Did we gloss over how bad he was because it was a 42-3 win?

Lovie, of course, stuck with Peters, and he was brilliant in the second quarter. Escaping the pocket, avoiding an ankle tackle and keeping his eyes downfield to find Imatorbhebhe in the end zone was everything. The game itself wasn't his magnum opus, but he answered more questions.

-I like that Illinois opened at -8 for the Eastern Michigan game. I think that tells us a few things.

The first and probably largest thing it tells us is that EMU isn't expected to be very good. Yeah, Mike Glass threw for 337 yards on Saturday against Kentucky, but 211 of those, by my count, came after the team trailed 24-3 and went into comeback mode. The game wasn't close at that point, and was never close, and Kentucky was likely in some sort of prevent shell that allowed Glass to complete more passes than he had when things were up in the air in the first half.

What it also tells us is that perhaps those in the know still view Illinois as a decent team. In our echo chamber we're freaking out about a closer-than-desired win against a bad FBS team, but in Vegas they think we can still beat a MAC team by more than a touchdown. ESPN's Bill Connelly tweeted on Sunday that the Illini have a 57 percent chance of making a bowl, per his odds. The sky is, in fact, not falling.

-I'm very pumped about a night game against Nebraska. Going into that game 3-0 would lend itself to the best atmosphere since ... North Carolina in 2016? A game I was at.

I'll also be at Nebraska in two weeks.

Here's to a pony.


escot on September 09 @ 01:14 PM CDT

I thought Illinois would be favored by much more than -8 in a home game vs a MAC team.

sparrowguy on September 09 @ 01:37 PM CDT

are you new to Illinois football? If so, welcome!

jdl on September 09 @ 02:03 PM CDT

“Ain't no sense worryin' about the things you got control over, 'cause if you got control over 'em, ain't no sense worryin'. And ain't no sense worryin' about the things you don't got control over, 'cause if you don't got control over 'em, ain't no sense worryin'.”

? Mickey Rivers

Groundhogday on September 09 @ 02:24 PM CDT

-I'm very pumped about a night game against Nebraska. Going into that game 3-0 would lend itself to the best atmosphere since ... North Carolina in 2016?

Perhaps 2014 is the better analogy. Started 2-0 with an FCS win and narrow victory over a Western Kentucky team not as good as we thought. Then a beat down on the road at Washington popped the bubble.

We lucked into a bowl that season, Beckman's Year 3, with a team Football Outsiders had ranked #80 in FEI. Might have a similar situation this year.

Illinimac68 on September 09 @ 07:13 PM CDT

I'm not buying the Nebraska hype. We could lose -- we could lose to just about anyone left on the schedule who isn't Rutgers -- but in my opinion Nebraska will come down to mistakes and turnovers.

Groundhogday on September 09 @ 08:42 PM CDT

For the 2014 season, UNC finished 6-7, losing to Rutgers in the Quick Lane Bowl (Detroit). That is about where I see Nebraska this season.

I think Nebraska will come down to whether we can stop them.

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