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I was fortunate to be born without an addictive personality.
I mean, I have my things. We all have things. I look forward to a soda most mornings. (I don't do coffee.) I could lose hours at a time in Coach Mode on NCAA Football '14. Nobody's perfect.
I guess I should say, I don't have any notable vices. I drink to excess approximately one day a year, like clockwork. (Incidentally, it's when my buddies and I get together for an Illinois game.) I had asthma growing up, so smoking was a non-starter. Even those things I listed above, if I wanted to stop them, I could.
It's a bit trite, but Illinois football has become my vice.
I can't stop. Robert articulated it perfectly in his piece immediately after the Minnesota game, but even the things he talked about -- turning the ship around, ripping off a few wins, saving the season -- are at a macro level; my sickness is a weekly cycle of looking forward to a game with optimism that, on any given Saturday, Illinois can win, followed by three hours of mostly misery on said Saturday, followed by 24 hours of despair about The State of Things before the cycle repeats.
I made mention of this sickness in my Postscript after the Purdue game. Despite not being particularly close for much of the contest, the late comeback and the signs of life showed by a Coran Taylor-led offense gave me hope the Illini could hang with Minnesota, which had failed to stop anyone in its first two games. Minutes after the Purdue game ended I suggested I thought Illinois would even defeat the Fightin' Flecks this past weekend.
That enduring, neverending hope makes days like Saturday so hard. We spend a week looking forward to a three-hour window on Saturday afternoon, and so when most of the first two hours of that window are unbearable we still watch because it's the last hour we'll get for another week. It's getting that fix even though you know you'll pay for it in the morning.
At least that soda gives me a few hours of enjoyment before I regret it.
-The defense is where Saturday's game begins and ends, but that Coran Taylor-led offense shouldn't be let off the hook.
After last Saturday's game against Purdue, the optimist would say, "and he did all that without a week to prepare. Imagine what the offense will look like when he goes into the week knowing he's the starter!"
Of course, the flipside is, imagine what an opposing defense can draw up when they have a week to prepare for Coran Taylor. I'm not enough of an X's and O's guy to say specifically what Minnesota did to limit his effectiveness, but 6-for-17 for 106 yards and a touchdown speaks for itself. Taylor was inaccurate when he wasn't bolting from the pocket, and was truly even worse than the final line suggests -- that 52-yard touchdown to Josh Imatorbhebhe in the fourth quarter was a 20-yard pass that the Minnesota defense played into a 50-yard touchdown. Taylor was bad.
-On that topic, if Isaiah Williams is able to return for the Rutgers game -- so far as we know he's been sidelined due to contact tracing but hasn't tested positive for COVID-19, meaning he should be able to return Saturday -- it shouldn't be a question who starts at quarterback. Williams has shown even less than Taylor to this point in their respective college careers, but Taylor showed very little this past weekend to suggest he's the long-term answer at the position.
-There are so many things that are frustrating about the defensive performance, but the missed tackles have to be at or near the top of my list. If I have to see one more poor Sydney Brown angle, I'll scream.
-Which will be used in hype videos longer, Milo Eifler destroying that Akron running back or Rashon Bateman crushing Eifler with a stiff arm on that jet sweep?
-Not to pick on Eifler, but there is perhaps no better encapsulation of the failures of the Illinois defense than the sequence in the first quarter.
With the game still scoreless and the Gophers staring at third-and-six from their own 11-yard line, Illinois called a timeout after Eifler, obviously confused about his assignment, ran all over the field trying to figure out who he was supposed to be covering. Burning a timeout so early, the defense should have then been set for that third-down play. Right?
Wrong. Somehow, the Illini defense ended up with Eifler matched up with Bateman -- a linebacker against a guy who declared early for the NFL Draft because he was that good at getting open against non-linebackers -- and Bateman's catch-and-run ended 32 yards later. Minnesota went on to score a touchdown on that drive and never looked back.
How Lovie burns a timeout to get his defense set, only to still end up with Eifler on the other team's best receiver -- I know sometimes these things can be schemed and maybe that's just how the respective play calls worked out, but come on -- is unconscionable.
-I can't decide if I want Khmari Thompson to just return every kickoff -- sort of a, "well, it's not like the offense is gonna get us there" mentality -- or if maybe constantly starting seven yards short of where they could have the ball if he simply let it sail over his head is suboptimal.
-I'm doing this by memory, but I believe the Big Ten Network broadcast listed Mike Epstein and Daniel Barker as the offensive players to watch, and Owen Carney and Sydney Brown as the defensive players to watch. Which is ... yeah. Perhaps a bit more preparation than reading last week's box score is in order.
-I didn't even see any of P.J. Fleck's famous antics on Saturday, but I still despise losing to that guy more than anything. Every time I saw "Row" on the front of the helmet or "Ski-U-Mah" on the back I wanted to fight someone.
> beat Michigan State
>> who then beat Michigan
>>> who then lost to Indiana and may be frauds?
>>>> but who also trounced Minnesota
>>>>> who trounced us
I will be predicting no victories this week. Which may be good news? Who knows anymore.