Everything Changes

Sep 9, 2023

As I was scrambling to finish The 90 Illini last week, I started just writing about whatever was on my mind in the intro. For the Reggie Love 90 Illini post, the entire intro is about the song "Everything Changes" from the musical "Waitress." I wrote about it that night and then, as I'm prone to do, I've listened to it over and over in the week since. I go through songs like I go through cereal: I'll only eat Honey Bunches Of Oats for several weeks and then I won't eat Honey Bunches Of Oats again for nine months.

So I listened to this song on the drive in. I listened to this song on the drive out. And I kept thinking about the season prediction I was writing one week ago right now. Everything changes. Everything.

Let's pull some quotes from last Friday night:

I've mentioned this several times this summer so I feel like I'm repeating myself at this point but the year after the big year has always been an issue for us.

8 wins in 1999... 5 wins in 2000.
10 wins in 2001... 5 wins in 2002.
9 wins in 2007... 5 wins in 2008.

We absolutely love going 5-7 the year after a big year. Before last year, those were our three best seasons since 1989, and we followed up each one of them with five wins.

Why? It's pretty simple, I think. Bad programs (and we were a bad program for 30 years) can have good seasons but they don't recruit well enough, coach well enough, or develop well enough to maintain it. The players responsible for the great season leave, the new players aren't good enough (or need 6-12 games of seasoning), and the great season is followed by 5-7.

Yet fans never think it's going to happen.

That's what we're dealing with right now, I think. Everything has changed. The players responsible for the great season have departed and the new players need 6-12 games of seasoning. We see the good in little bits here and there, not play after play, series after series.

We did fight back in the second half and made a game of it. But there hasn't been much consistency so far, and because of that, we're 1-1 (and lucky to not be 0-2).

More SOC paragraphs:

I've used this example many times this summer but look at Indiana in 2021. They won 8 games in 2019 and then, in the weird Covid season, actually went 6-1 in the Big Ten. In 2021 they're ranked in the preseason poll, there are millions of stories about how Tom Allen was the coach they needed all along... and they went 2-10. Ranked preseason and 2-10. Why? It's really, really hard to win football games. After going 6-1 in 2020, they've gone 6-18 since.

I mean, Michigan State just experienced this. After a bad season during the Covid year (a weird year for everyone), they go 11-2 in 2021 and Mel Tucker is given a gazillion dollar contract. Michigan State is #15 in the preseason poll last year and everything is rolling. 5-7.

There are countless examples. I mean, just last year there were a ton of teams in the preseason top-25 who fell out by the end of the season. Baylor goes 12-2 in 2021, Dave Aranda is a genius, they're #10 preseason in 2022... and they finish 6-7. Dave Aranda wasn't a genius nor is he a moron. College football is simply cyclical.

This was the part that was going through my mind when listening to Everything Changes on repeat. I guess I maybe need to tell you what the song is about. Or maybe I should just give you some lyrics:

And all my mistakes
They make sense when I turn them around
Everything changes
What I thought was so permanent fades
In the blink of an eye there's a new life in front of my face
And I know in due time, every right thing will find its right place

Not kidding, this was on my mind this entire game. The whole idea behind it. The concept of it all. As I watched the defense that led the nation in points allowed last season give up 542 yards to Kansas, I kept thinking through "what I thought was so permanent fades". I wasn't depressed, I wasn't discouraged, I was just... this is how it all works.

I used to live in absolutes. 2001 - "We're going to be great forever!" 2003 - "We're never going to be good again!" Now, after these first two seasons under Bret Bielema, I don't feel any of that. I see a season where everything has changed (for the worse, mostly) and yet I'm settled into "in due time every right thing will find its right place."

I know that sounds weird to say after an "oh no we suck again" performance. But I always get on here and tell you where I'm at, and this is me at 1:01 am after a 34-23 loss at Kansas.

Everything changed. Ryan Walters is at Purdue and he took guys like Kevin Kane and Cory Patterson with him. We added something old (Thad Ward), something new (Charlie Bullen), something borrowed (Jim Leonhard), and something Buh. The Brown brothers have been replaced with the Kreutz brothers, it's now Luke handing off to Reggie and not Tommy handing off to Chase, and we've replaced nearly the entire secondary. Quan and Syd looked rough in 2020 and great in 2022. Now Scott and Scott will look rough in 2023 and great in 2025.

And this will keep on happening, over and over, year after year. We'll look bad, those players will get seasoning, we'll look good, those players will leave. The goal has always been to ride that roller coaster between 6 wins and 9 wins, not between 3 wins and 6 wins. To slowly build a culture where the downswings don't go very far down. We're not there yet (see: the 3,000 words I wrote at the beginning of the preview about "The Gap"), so until we get there, it's going to be a roller coaster. All these mistakes make sense when we turn them around.

I really haven't budged from my position one week ago right now. 5-7 is the fear, 6-6 is the goal. Toledo isn't Wyoming, Kansas isn't Virginia, and FAU isn't Chattanooga, so this non-conference portion of the schedule might be rough. The four quarterbacks we play these first four weeks (Finn, Daniels, Allar, and Thompson) might be the four best quarterbacks we face the entire season. Make the seasoning process a 6-game thing, not a 12-game thing, and go win some games in the back half.

Did I expect the defense to allow 958 yards in the first two games? Absolutely not. I said I thought the defense would take a step back, but I didn't expect to be trailing 28-7 at halftime of any game. There's a ton of work to be done.

I'm just in this spot where I expect changes to be made (for the better). 2021 started like this and then spun on a dime at Penn State. I find myself... excited (?) to see how this team matures and grows.

Everything changes. We got worse very quickly. What we thought was permanent has faded.

And now I'm fascinated to see how we eventually turn it around.

+ Virginia punted nine times one year ago this weekend. Kansas punted once tonight. That's my biggest "what a difference a year makes."

One punt! I tweeted this after their first drive...

...and then they only punted one time (one time!) the rest of the game. 9 for 13 on third down will do wonders for an offense. Nine first downs, two field goals, one failed fourth-down, and one punt. What a consistent night for the Jayhawk offense.


+ I don't do player grades, but I feel like they'd be fairly easy for the defense in this game. I thought Xavier Scott and Johnny Newton played very well. I thought Miles Scott and Keith Randolph were good, not great. And I'm not sure there's another player who stood out to me (so maybe I'd be giving the rest all D's or F's?).

As someone pointed out to me on Twitter, our two inside linebackers (Dylan Rosiek and Tarique Barnes) combined for four total tackles (two each). Add in the outside linebacker play (Gabe Jacas seemed... confused on several plays?) and there's a ton of work to be done with Jacas and Coleman, Barnes and Rosiek. 262 rushing yards is not something I thought I'd see this season.

Oh, and #7 is coming to town next weekend.

+ I should note that I felt really good about the fight in the second half. I've spent the last 24 hours blabbing on about our "first time away from Champaign" games the last 20 years, and this first half felt almost identical to 2012 at Arizona State, 2014 at Washington, 2015 at North Carolina, and 2017 at South Florida. Those games finished 45-14, 44-19, 48-14, and 47-23. To climb back into this one and lose 34-23 kind of feels like a minor victory?

I really wanted to score on our final drive to make the final score something like 34-31. I'm sure there were some nervous gamblers in Vegas when we were in Kansas territory seeking to cut it to three late. But the interception ended that.

Actually, now that I think about it, I wrote that "we've been in every game since Wisconsin in October 2021" thing at the end of last year. But that died tonight. The streak of every loss being a one-score game (yes, I know how the bowl game ended) came to an end with that final interception.

Would have loved to have seen us score there. If for no other reason than to keep that streak alive.

+ Final thoughts and then I'm headed to bed. Let's do a quick bullet list:

  • Altmyer was impressive. Could have been better, obviously. But 19-28 for 202 works for me. And both interceptions were kind of fluky.
  • The six sacks, though, were tough to watch. If Kansas got to him six times, Penn State might sack him 13 times.
  • There's nothing worse on earth than a pass caught two yards short of the sticks on 4th and 4.
  • Man, we need Matt Bailey to be healthy for Penn State.
  • Kansas had a clear targeting in the first half that wasn't even reviewed. And then they got two... targeting makeup calls (?) in the second half.
  • I'm giving Aaron Henry plenty of room as he learns how to call a game. But this clearly isn't an "everyone on the same page" situation right now. Woof.
  • Two standouts on offense: Griffin Moore and Hank Beatty.
  • One standout on coverage teams: walkon CJ Bufkin.

Eyes are heavy. Going to see our granddaughter this weekend so I'm flying west in - oh God, my alarm goes off in three hours and six minutes. I gotta go to bed. That means there won't be a clever close to this article.

Just go read "something borrowed, something Buh" again.


Eagle on September 9, 2023 @ 09:40 AM

This was somewhat predictable but no one talked about it. I thought about 4 to 5 years ago that the linemen that Lovie brought in over several years were consistently below our usual standard. Some of those players washed out and others make up our OL now. If we had better protection, Luke could be everything we want in a QB. Crisler gives up way too many sacks so he'll be on the bench soon.

I agree that Moore and Beatty have shown a much higher % of completions than our speed receivers. And Laughery and Feagin will be seeing more tick - a lot more. Wish Anderson wasn't hurt.

orangejulius on September 9, 2023 @ 10:41 AM

This article could be one sentence. We haven't recruited well enough to sustain success and like many previous seasons we have MAC level talent starting at some key positions.

cmi2phx on September 9, 2023 @ 11:08 AM

Very well put

Illiniboat on September 9, 2023 @ 12:22 PM

I was definitely cussing Aaron Henry in the 1st half, but he and his staff do seem to be able to make halftime adjustments which is encouraging. His learning curve needs to shortened up though.

Altmyer is legit good. They just need to keep him upright and give him time. That back shoulder throw to Williams was gorgeous.

I was alarmed at half time, but they didn't quit. Hopefully next week they can put two halves together.

HiggsBoson on September 9, 2023 @ 04:31 PM

I have some doubts that Henry made any of those adjustments on his own. People are saying that Bielema made the defensive call in the second half.

HiggsBoson on September 9, 2023 @ 04:29 PM

Robert, any truth to what people are saying about Bielema taking over calling defensive play calling in the second half? Henry seems in way over his head to me.

Robert on September 10, 2023 @ 11:46 AM

I exist to cover sports outside of the “people are saying” morass. You should know this.

No, I have no idea if there’s any truth to what people are saying. And you won’t need to check back because there’s very little chance of me finding out.

danny on September 9, 2023 @ 06:40 PM

“People are saying” - who are these people? Like how would they know?

dsboyce on September 9, 2023 @ 07:32 PM

I don’t think the targeting calls were makeup call at all. They were both called correctly according to the rules. The one in the first half was an obvious miss.

CapitalCityOutlaw50 on September 10, 2023 @ 12:30 AM


The two worst P5 football programs over the last 30 years finally played each other.

We lost.

By 11.

And it wasn't even that close.

   Welcome to the show, 10000 new season tickets holders.  You are here 

ILLhaveaBrewski on September 10, 2023 @ 04:05 AM

You seem to be the only one with Xavier Scott had a good game train. PFF didn’t have him in our top 13ish performers. Wonder how awful he would have been without that pick.

Leechcass on September 10, 2023 @ 09:35 AM

I'm going to sing your lament about my golf game. It's here, it's great, it's gone. But I have to wonder if BB has put too much faith in his staff and is spending time in other areas of the program. It doesn't look like a Bielema team anymore.

ktal on September 11, 2023 @ 12:37 PM

That something Buh line was brilliant. Applause!

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