Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fundamental Challenges

Ohio State played a good game. The Illini had opporutnities to play a great game. But, as we've seen before, a few fundamentals got in the way:

I'm afraid I've been a bit repetitive this season, but these have been consistent challenges for the Illini.

The Buckeyes have a very good team. Beanie Wells is a very talented back, and it's fascinating to watch him let the play develop and take advantage of it, unless he's running on your team. Terrelle Pryor is an elusive runner, as well, and the Illini got a taste of what Juice gave tOSU last year. And they made the most of every opportunity the Illini provided, including the blocked punt into the Illini endzone for a safety.

But the Illini did give the full house at Memorial Stadium a few things to cheer about. Jeff Cumberland's TD catch was amazing. He showed off his good hands in that play. And how can you not appreciate an attempt at a lateral from a line backer? Brit Miller ended up with an illegal forward pass in an apparent fumble recovery return. Granted, the runner was called down before the ball came loose, erasing the entire play, but you have to appreciate the effort. The defense made some great stands, as well, including one deep in tOSU territory.

Perhaps the most interesting thing we saw from Coach Zook was the use of Eddie McGee in a wide range of plays. He took snaps for called QB runs, took over for Juice in the 4th quarter, attempted and completed passes, tried to run an option play, caught a few passes and finally left the game late with a toe injury. Eddie appeared a bit more inexperienced than he actually is when he went under center late in the game -- mostly thanks to the miscue on an option pitch. He's clearly willing to take on anything for an opportunity to get in the game, and that's encouraging. Based on his play the last couple weeks, it will be interesting to see what role he plays next week...and next season.

Memorial Stadium
Personally, I got my first look at the renovated Memorial Stadium on Saturday -- and it was a perfect look, thanks to fabulous seats on the east side. Wow! It's a big change, but it looks great! The sky boxes and press boxes are way up there, but the new construction fits into Memorial Stadium better than some renovations I've seen. (Though keep in mind that I'm mainly comparing it to the spaceship that landed on top of Soldier Field.) The scoreboard is fabulous, though it's not easy for those sitting in the horseshoe to see.

But the highlight, in my opinion, is the new student section. The placement of the Marching Illini in front of Block I in the north endzone looks sharp, and allows them to radiate energy around the stadium. Fun stuff.

Additional Notes:

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