Postscript, Toledo

Sep 4, 2023

I have a complicated relationship with scary movies.

I wouldn't say I hate them. That's too strong. I like the idea of them. But I also don't have the constitution to watch them.

I recently came across a great podcast idea in which one host who loves scary movies describes the plot of a scary movie, in detail, to her friend who like me can't stomach scary movies. And after hearing them run through the "Scream" franchise, I decided I might be able to handle "Scream 4," especially with the knowledge of how the entire movie plays out. I put it on for about 90 seconds and decided no, in fact, I cannot. No matter how much I might want to be someone who likes scary movies, it's not my bag.

The best example of this is the movie "The Ring." It came out when I was in high school and at the prime "let's go to the movies because it's a Friday night" age. My friends wanted to see it, and I liked being with my friends. One ticket to "The Ring," please.

"The Ring," of course, stands the test of time as one of the best scary movies ever, a bad beat for a 37-year-old who just told you I couldn't get through the cold open of "Scream 4." And so for an hour and a half I tolerated all the worst things the movie could throw at me, getting increasingly less interested in being there with every new horror.

Around the time Brian Cox's character gets into the bathtub with his television -- I work for an electric utility, and it's my obligation to say this isn't practicing electrical safety -- I decided I'd seen enough. I left the movie then and there, a fact that I was reminded of for the rest of high school. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

I thought about that ordeal as I was walking away from Memorial Stadium in the middle of the third quarter on Saturday night. I wasn't leaving in protest, although the score became 19-7 as we trudged through the tailgate lots -- the game was the first one for my two boys, and while the older one loved it and wanted to stay, the toddler had reached his limit and it was time to head home.

It wasn't lost on me, though, that as the Illini mounted their comeback, my Toledo game experience had the chance to be akin to my experience with "The Ring." I'd endured some of the most horrific things you'll see -- girls crawling through television sets, Dequan Finn scrambling for 24 yards on third-and-27, etc. -- and didn't even get to stick around for the payoff. All pain, no gain.

I guess you could say my favorite scary movie is Illinois football.

-I don't usually pay a lot of attention to the PFF grades, but I saw the boys from The Field Pass tweet out the top-scoring Week 1 grades and couldn't help but notice the absence of a few names. Left tackle Julian Pearl? Nowhere. Captain and middle linebacker Tarique Barnes? Nope. All-everything defensive tackle Johnny Newton? Not there.

And I actually think that's a good thing. If those were players for whom we had high hopes but no track record, it might be worrisome that they were, by at least one metric, objectively bad on Saturday. But we know who these guys are. Julian Pearl will be fine. Tarique Barnes will be fine. Johnny Newton will be fine. All the other guys who didn't show up on the list or were graded as average -- guys like Isaiah Williams, Seth Coleman, Gabe Jacas, Taz Nicholson and Zy Crisler -- will be fine.

To get that game out of the way with a bunch of your best players performing meh or worse is a huge success in the grand scheme of things.

-One thing that might not be fine is the second corner spot.

Tyler Strain actually graded out as the seventh-best Illini player on Saturday, but he left the game with a concussion and was in concussion protocol as of Monday afternoon. Bret Bielema told the media that Strain is "definitely progressing in the right direction," but players have to clear a number of hurdles before being released from concussion protocol and Friday is coming quickly. I don't expect to see Strain out there against Kansas.

In his stead Saturday, Elijah Mc-Cantos stepped in. That was a huge surprise to me after we heard nothing about Mc-Cantos during camp. And while he wasn't an abject disaster, the aforementioned PFF grades thought he was pretty close.

I don't think a similar performance will be tenable on Friday. As Robert noted, they say the most progress is made between Week 1 and Week 2, and the second cornerback situation needs to progress quickly if we don't want to get torched by Jalon Daniels and company.

-As we were walking through Lot 31 on our way to retrieve our wagon from the tailgate, Toledo had just intercepted Luke Altmyer minutes after going up 19-7. And on one of the televisions set up at the tailgate I saw the Toledo players celebrating behind the bench, taunting the Illinois fans.

I haven't stopped thinking about those players since. Here you are, doing it. You rode a bus from Toledo, Ohio to Champaign, Illinois, to play a Big Ten team's season opener, and you're up 19-7 with the ball. Nobody can tell you anything.

And then the rest of the game plays out like it did. As you were taunting, Miles Scott was intercepting your quarterback and taking it to the house. Your offense stalled out in the second half, the Illinois offense found its groove and you had to ride a bus back to Toledo after a loss. You went from the driver's seat to the Greyhound seat.

As someone who is too competitive for his own good, that's my nightmare. Talking trash and then having to take it as someone gives it right back to you an hour later? Couldn't be me. I'm the guy silently celebrating and hoping the other team doesn't notice me so they won't come for me later.

-Something that struck me in looking at the box score was the relatively narrow usage tree.

Eight Toledo players caught a pass, compared to five for the Illini. The five Illini who caught a pass were the obvious suspects -- Pat Bryant, Isaiah Williams, Casey Washington, Tip Reiman and Reggie Love. There's nothing terribly interesting about the guys who did catch passes.

It's interesting that more players weren't involved, though. Malik Elzy was targeted once early and then disappeared. Ashton Hollins played nine snaps. Hank Beatty played but didn't record a catch. Griffin Moore played just four snaps. (Henry Boyer, interestingly, played eight.)

I doubt the usage remains so narrow moving forward, but it was a noteworthy part of Luke Altmyer's first Illini start.

-Not getting to see the ending of the game aside, Saturday was a really great day. (It kills me, because the agony of the late Toledo touchdown, the exhilaration of the Casey Washington catch, the relief of the Caleb Griffin field goal -- it would have been a really cool first-game memory for my 7-year-old.) Grange Grove was packed, as were the surrounding lots. No issues getting into the stadium. A touch warm, but generally beautiful weather. No complaints.

I'll be back up in two weeks to catch the Penn State game with my buddies. Here's hoping this time I get to see the whole game, and not just the bad parts.


Efremwinters84 on September 4, 2023 @ 08:14 PM

Two quick thoughts:

  1. I had many of the same thoughts as you, Nathan, when it comes to reading/deciphering the Illini player stats. And like you, I think it's a good thing in retrospect that so many of our top guys played so poorly. (It just better not happen two weeks in a row. If it does, we need to then be really concerned.)

  2. You really can't be leaving Illini games early like that. What a memory the boys could have had!!! So great for story-telling 30 years from now! Bring the wife. Bring a friend. Bring a sitter. Or, bring two cars.

Nathan on September 5, 2023 @ 08:25 AM

This first trip was definitely a fact-finding mission. We're going to make it a tradition, and as the younger one gets older -- maybe even as soon as next year -- we'll certainly be staying. Just too long of a drive home, too long of a day, too late of a night, etc., to stick this one out!

HiggsBoson on September 5, 2023 @ 07:27 AM

Nathan, that was really good!

Nathan on September 5, 2023 @ 08:25 AM

Thank you!

BigRedIllini on September 5, 2023 @ 08:48 AM

My team is losing, battered and bruising I see the high fives between the bad guys Leave with my head hung, you are the only one Who seems to care

Nathan, as a dad to a 7 year old girl I had to acknowledge the Swiftie reference.

Nathan on September 5, 2023 @ 09:09 AM

Hell yeah. Miss Americana!

jpbrown on September 5, 2023 @ 04:26 PM

This exchange made my day.

NJ Illini on September 5, 2023 @ 09:58 AM

The scariest part of that game was watching the D line get owned. I know Jacas is just a sophomore but did you see him bite really badly on a Finn option and lose contain?

Also when are we going to learn that we dont have a strong short game so we should stop going for it on 4th and 2 in the red zone. We run the same basic handoff from the shotgun and it doesn't work. Until we can prove we own the LOS, let's take 3 points and be happy.

tgb on September 5, 2023 @ 01:22 PM

Did anyone ask why we didn't throw to the tight end after the first series?

Speak Your Mind

Please login or register to post comments on the IlliniBoard.

Post Preview