Monday, September 07, 2009

Some Answers, More Questions

The Illini opener in St. Louis wasn't what the team -- or fans -- expected. Mizzou capitalized on Illini mistakes for a convincing 37-9 victory. Blaine Gabbert led his team well, and made the rest of the Big 12 take notice. And the Illini...they identified plenty of areas for improvement before conference play gets underway.

The Illini answered many of the questions asked before kickoff...

On offense, the O-line proved they could protect the QB and provide time for Juice to throw, and although Juice went down for a loss 3 times, he only lost a total of 8 yards. Depth at RB was needed, with Mikel LeShoure scoring the Illini TD while Daniel Dufrene and Jason Ford nursed ankle injuries. The Illini passed for 215 yards with 12 individuals recording completions. Jarred Fayson made a spectacular catch, which was encouraging, given that Benn left the game after the first offensive series.

On defense, the D-line and linebackers did a solid job containing the Tiger run game. They held Mizzou to 117 yards (the Illini had 110 yards on the ground, making this aspect of the game nearly even). Gabbert's runs seemed to be the most difficult for them to stop, but they improved during parts of the game. However, fatigue became a factor late in the game.

But the Illini raised additional questions that must be answered quickly if the Illini want to contend this season:

Next up: Illinois State and an off week to address some of these issues and prepare for the Big Ten. The Illini have more work to do than expected. But they still have potential to improve on last season. Let's see what these boys and their coaches can do.


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