Saturday, October 31, 2009
Signs of Life?
Monday, October 19, 2009
In Other Illini News
- The Illini women's volleyball team moved up in the rankings to #8 after their weekend victory over Minnesota
- The Illini men's golf team is ranked 6th nationally
- Illini libero Ashley Edinger was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, the second week in a row this title has gone to an Illini
- I gained a greater appreciation for the skill required on the O-Line in this article -- complete with quotes from former Illini Tony Pashos
- Jeff Jordan has rejoined the Illini basketball team
- Illini senior cross-country runner Angela Bizzarri, a seven-time All-American, won the 6K race at the Pre-National Invitational
The game itself was indeed ugly. Missed tackles. Missed field goals. Turnovers. There were some impressive catches on both sides of the field, but bright spots were few and far between, especially for the Illini.
It will be very interesting to see what next year brings...
Saturday, October 17, 2009
The Hoosiers were destroyed at Virginia last week (not impressive), but the Illini haven't been impressive all season. Indiana had a strong road loss at Michigan early in the conference season. In fact, a poor call by the referees may have cost the Hoosiers that game.
What does that mean for today? Who knows. I'll try to be optimistic that it could be an evenly matched, if somewhat ugly, game. Probably won't be widely watched, and that's understandable. But this could be an opportunity for the Illini to show off some of their offensive talent...I hope.
Labels: Illini football
Friday, October 16, 2009
Assembly Hall Action
So if you are in the area, seriously think about heading to Assembly Hall. That will be much warmer than the high school football game I'm planning to check out...
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
This week the Illini are ranked #10, and continue play in the Big Ten, which boasts 3 top-ten teams (Penn State #1, Minnesota #6).
And if you can catch a game, you should. These girls are fun to watch.
Junior Laura DeBruler can hit, and she is one of the team leaders. Johannah Bangert, also a junior, leads the Big Ten in blocks. Senior defensive specialist Ashley Edinger seems to dig out just about anything, and the entire team, although not as tall as some opponents, works really well together.
Head Coach Kevin Hambly is in his first year, taking over a strong program from Don Hardin, who spent 13 years building Illini volleyball. Hambly and his girls looked poised for a strong showing in the Big Ten.
And they definitely give Illini fans a team that's easy to cheer for. Their Wednesday match against Northwestern will be on the Big Ten Network. Seriously, check it out.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Yes, I watched the game (though not live), and I realize there weren't many highlights. But just to make me feel better, I'm going to list some of them:
- Defensive takeaways -- especially the one on the goal line. The Illini needed that.
- The interception was nice, too. Sophomore Tavon Wilson had a very good game with that pick and 13 tackles. (I had to break these up to make the list look a bit longer.)
- Benn had a very impressive catch near the sideline, shortly after Juice returned.
- Two LeShoure TDs.
- An Illini punt downed on the 1 yard line, and Anthony Santella got plenty of game experience.
- Beautiful fall weather in Champaign (none of the snow they had in Iowa City before that really interesting Big Ten game).
I realize I'm stretching, but I do feel a bit better now.
But the Illini still have us scratching our heads and wondering what happened to our team. The defense was porous in the first half. Are they missing the middle linebacker leadership? Martez Wilson was supposed to fill the whole left by J Leman and then Brit Miller, but he's out for the season.
The offense has lots of weapons, but they don't seem to be firing until late in the game (but at least the scores won't look quite so bad years from now). Eddie McGee looked rougher than I expected in the first half. His accuracy left a lot to be desired. But not all the incompletions where his fault. McGee did make Juice look better though. But there were still more 3-and-outs than an offense with this talent should have.
And the penalties...I don't have the energy to detail how they hurt. But they do.
Next up? Indiana. They looked great at Michigan a few weeks ago (and they got a bum call), but they didn't look so great at Virginia last week.
Labels: Illini football
Saturday, October 10, 2009
The move to Eddie could energize the Illini, who clearly need something to try to stop the "free fall" that started with the dismal showing against Mizzou. But with the leadership that Juice provided in the off-season, I don't know if the change on the field will be enough.
The Illini have been confounding this season. They have so many solid pieces that should fit together to create a solid Big Ten football team. But for some reason, those pieces -- a talented QB, gifted wide receivers and diverse running game -- haven't fit together to put points on the board. We knew defense would be a question, and the loss of Martez Wilson hurt. And special teams have been an "adventure" in recent years.
Of course, the Illini have faced some of the top Big Ten teams at the beginning of the conference season. But that's not an excuse. Let's hope it's motivation for a stronger showing as the season wears on.
As for the Spartans, it will be a tough Homecoming game. Let's see what Eddie and the Illini can do...
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
So the Illini are really struggling. And the biggest challenge is themselves. At any sign of momentum, they often do something on their own to stop it.
- Flagging: The little yellow ones, not necessarily their energy level, although the first often leads to the second. The Illini have been penalized generously for a variety of reasons, and on both sides of the ball. Mental mistakes, for the most part, that a team with their experience should be able to eliminate.
- Turnovers: The Illini offense has talent – no question. But when they let go of the ball, they limit themselves. Fumbles and interceptions effectively end promising drives, and both Juice and Eddie McGee have proven their ability to turn the ball over. Though they are certainly not alone.
- Downward spiral effect: Mistakes can have various effects on a team. They can be galvanizing. Or derailing. In the case of the 2009 Illini, they seem to start a descent that spirals out of control. Or a snowball effect. One leads to another to another to another…and before you know it, you’ve been shut out.
However, as I’ve said in the past, true fans support their team. No matter what.
So it was nice to see a little activity on offense during the Penn State game, including a bit of production from the Florida transfer. And despite the major losses to injury on defense, they are holding better than they could (or maybe my expectations are just really low). And Memorial Stadium looks really good in Illini orange.
Changes are necessary, and the coaching staff finally seems to be willing to make some big ones. Let's hope they make a difference against Michigan State this weekend. However, the Spartans are looking pretty good this year...
Yes, it looks at this point to be a long football season. But I'll say it anyway...go Illini!
Labels: Illini football