Sunday, October 10, 2010

Happy Day in Happy Valley

Congratulations to Coach Ron Zook and the Illini! They notched the first Illini win at Penn State on a beautiful Homecoming Day in Happy Valley.

Although Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions have fallen out of the rankings this season after tough losses at Alabama and Iowa that banged up their defense, beating Penn State still sounds pretty good. (Especially after the consistent disappointment of last season.) A 20-point win on the road at a traditional powerhouse can be considered a statement win. The Illini can legitimately claim to be the most improved team in the conference.

The Illini had plenty of highlights, but the problems on special teams could (and probably should) have caused a different outcome.
But beyond those miscues, the Illini played very, very well. The defense kept Penn State in check, allowing just one big play. Compared to last year, the defense has perhaps improved the most of any of the units on the field.
To be fair, early in the game the tackles didn't look as solid as they had against other teams. And Justin Green did get beat by Penn State's top receiver on the only big play of the day. And to be honest, you can't ask for much more.

The offense kept the ball moving with solid, sustained drives.
I would like to see Scheelhaase stop trying to go over the top for extra yards at the end of runs. It looks cool, but it also increases his chances of injury.

And despite the issues on special teams, the Illini kicking game is fantastic. Derek Dimke was 4 for 4 on field goal attempts, including a 50-yarder that just had the distance needed.

Next week at Michigan State will be very tough, but the Illini have continued to improve, and they should be able to put up a fight in East Lansing. But, for now, what a great confidence-builder this game was.

Go Illini!

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