And my hopes for the Illinois Football season go…UP…really

Yes, I remember last year: 2-0 start which featured a 45-17 pasting of a decent Cincinnati team…then a loss to Washington, then a big win over a bad Miami of Ohio team. So, we had a 3-1 start, end 4-8 as the Illini won only 1 B1G game.

Yes, one can attribute that to the Big Ten competition being stronger than the out of conference competition.

But…is that so true this year?

Let’s look ahead:
at Washington: beat Hawaii 17-16 and FCS Eastern Washington 59-52 (yes, EWU made the FCS semi-finals and lost to Towson State).
Texas State: they beat a weak FCS team and were off; we’ll know more when they play Navy on the 13’th of September.
at Nebraska: scare against FCS team; won with 20 seconds in the game.
Purdue: blown out by a MAC team 38-17
at Wisconsin: ouch
Minnesota: Gophers: easy win over a good FCS team, solid win over Middle Tennessee (comparable to WKU)
at Ohio State: too much
Iowa: scare against an FCS team (8 points), two scores in the last 3 minutes to beat a MAC team
Penn State: good win over UCF and a “not in doubt” win over a MAC team.
at Northwestern: lost to Cal (1-11 last year) and lost to a strong MAC team (Northern Illinois)

So, attempting to be realistic:

Illinois should be favored against Texas State and Purdue.

Based on ON THE FIELD PERFORMANCE in 2014 and NOT “reputation”:

Illinois should be “in the hunt” in the Washington, Iowa and Northwestern games. (say, 1 or 2 of these)

I think Illinois has a valid “upset possibility” against Minnesota, Penn State and Nebraska. (1 of these)

The “forget about it” games: Wisconsin and Ohio State.

So, I think that 6-7 wins is a realistic possibility, though so is 4-5 wins.

Of course, much of this hope comes from….well, the realization that the upcoming competition is less imposing than it has been in years past rather than the team being significantly better than last year’s team.


September 7, 2014 Posted by | college football, football | | Leave a comment

Football: full week…

NFL: disaster. Bears lose to the Bills in overtime 20-17 and the Rams got blistered at home by the Vikings 34-6. So much for this being a promising season. 🙂

Right now: it is 28-3 49’ers over the Cowboys late in the 3’rd; not sure why Fox considered this a national marquee game. The 49’ers are among the NFL’s best; the Cowboys are, at best, mediocre and have been that way for years and years. Ok, make that 28-9, pending the extra point.

Now the colleges:

I rambled on about Illinois yesterday. I was able to follow the scores in Navy’s 31-24 win at Temple.


Then I had time to watch either Notre Dame vs. Michigan or Texas vs. BYU; I chose the latter as Texas games aren’t as easily seen here; FS-1 carried it.

At the half it was only 6-0 BYU; the defenses dominated.

But then came the second half and that was a massacre. BYU just beat up UT at the line of scrimmage (UT had some inexperienced linemen) and it ended up being a 41-7 beat down. Here, the athletic BYU quarterback hurdles a hapless defender.


It was as bad as the score would indicate.

Why I stayed with this game: remember, it was only 6-0 at the half; ND was up 21-0 on Michigan at the half (ended 31-0)


September 7, 2014 Posted by | college football, football, NFL | | Leave a comment

Feeling good after a half marathon…

One note: I walked the IVS half marathon about 10 minutes slower than I did in 2012. That race I did my two loops in 1:10:30 and 1:14:30. Today I was 1:18:30/1:16:30. But I finished feeling a whole lot better as I was attempting to practice marathon pace.

Sometimes it is nice to “do” an event rather than “pedal to the metal” race it.


September 7, 2014 Posted by | walking | | Leave a comment

Illinois Valley Striders Half Marathon: 2014 (Marathon preparation)

I admit that going into this, I had “football on the brain” and all of my plans to do more miles were brushed aside; icing my foot was more important.
I did warm up with a 29 minute 2 mile on the track and I did wear old shoes and my new sorbothane heel pads (LOVE ’em). My only pain was on some of the downhills; I had to switch to a quicker cadence going down hills. Uphills and flats were fine.

Temperature: 50’s. Past years: 2011 (walk), 2012 (hard walk), 2013 (failed running attempt)

My main goal: get miles, and practice my “marathon effort pace”. How did I do? This was a two loop course: 1:18:26 for loop 1, 1:16:33 for loop 2, 2:34:59 (my watch). I admit that I picked it up at about mile 8.
Though I would not have been able to sustain that second loop pace for a full marathon, 2:40 seems sustainable on an easier course. I just have to be patient on race day.

Comments: this course is a mix of paved roads, gravel/crumbly pavement roads, and just plain gravel. It is very hilly; some of the climbs are gut wrenching. It is a club race and attracts mostly experienced people.
When we started, just about everyone pulled away from me; I wasn’t actually dead last, but it sort of felt that way. But I knew that many would be coming back to me when we got to those hills so I didn’t panic; I just worked on my marathon walking pace.

Sure enough, I caught some folks and during the second half, I did have one pit stop (too much pre-race coffee). I did work to catch various people and I didn’t get passed. I did push a bit on that “3 miles of gravel” stretch and again going up the big hill.

Knees: way soft; one can’t really race walk legally on this stuff and on these steep hills. This was a sort-of-hard powerwalk, period.

Afterward, I got my medal from a friend who did the first loop as part of a relay; she is on her way back. Yes, half marathon finisher’s medals are lame but I took it anyway. 😉

Place: 108/129, though some who finished behind me were relay teams.

1:11:51 (mile 6)
2:34:59 (finish)

September 7, 2014 Posted by | walking | | 4 Comments

Illinois vs. Western Kentucky: IL Defense shines in second half of 42-34 win



Ok, Illinois beat Western Kentucky 42-34 and rolled up 527 yards of offense while giving up 428 themselves. So, why in the world am I praising the Illinois defense?


Well, with exception of the “last minute of the game” drive by WKU (75 yards for a touchdown, with less than 30 seconds to play), the Illinois defense had stopped WKU in the second half. Moreover the Illinois defense was directly responsible for the final 14 points: they scored on an interception return and set up an Illinois touchdown via a “sack/strip”. Even better: when WKU got the ball first and goal at the Illini 7 after an interception, they held WKU to a field goal.

So while Illinois moved the ball very well, the offense made some big mistakes too, including giving up a 95 yard “fumble return” (it looked to me as if the Illinois receiver didn’t have control of the ball which would have made it an interception). Illinois also missed a 34 yard field goal and got stuffed on two running plays inside the 2 yard line (3’rd and 4’th down). Many of the long Illinois drives ended with no points; three of the six touchdowns were set up or scored by other phases of the game (interception return, short field on a botched catch of a punt snap, and fumble on a strip/sack).

The defense got lit up in the first half, but played much better in the second.


How it went:
WKU started with the ball and moved it but stalled. So on a punt, the punter dropped the snap and had to cover the ball. That gave Illinois a short field, and after a quick pass to set up Illinois inside the 10, Illinois punched it in to take a quick 7-0 lead.

The teams traded punts and then it appeared that WKU was moving the ball, but a good “gang tackle/strip” thwarted a WKU thrust. But Illinois fumbled it right back, and WKU got a field goal. 7-3.

Then came a key sequence: Illinois drove it to the WKU 2 when it was 3’rd and goal. They got it to the 1. On 4’th and goal, UI got stuffed.

Then WKU responded with a 99 yard touchdown drive, which featured a 4’th and goal from the 1..but WKU got the touchdown. 10-7 WKU. Momentum appeared to shift.


Illinois had a drive but missed a tough, 50 yard “against the wind” field goal attempt. WKU converted from the short field and drove it in to take a 17-7 lead. “uh-oh”.

But, this time, Illinois came back with a nice drive of their own; it was 17-14 WKU at the half.

Second half: Illinois opened up well with a long touchdown drive. 21-17 Illinois.

Then the defense got a quick stop, and Illinois got the ball and was driving again. Then came this bizarre play:

It appeared to me that the UofI receiver never had complete control of the ball; but officially it was a catch and a strip; so now it was 24-21, WKU.

On the NEXT SERIES, U of I throws an interception and WKU now has the ball first and goal at the UofI 7.

But the defense holds and WKU kicks a field goal to take a 27-21 lead going into the 4’th quarter.

But the Illini don’t fold. They drive it 88 yards for a touchdown, capping it with a 62 yard touchdown pass.


It is 28-27 in the 4’th and WKU is driving again. But the defense comes up huge:


Now it is 35-27 and the Illini have the momentum. The defense gets a stop and now the offense drives it. The drive stalls and on 4’th down with 4:31 left in the game: missed 34 yard field goal.

So, WKU has new life.

But the defense comes up huge again. With 4:00 left in the game, the defense gets a strip sack, shown here:


The offense punches it in with 2:19 to go to make it 42-27; it is hard to remember that WKU lead going into the 4’th quarter.

But WKU has one last drive to cut it to 42-34, but Illinois recovers the onside kick to seal the game.

Illinois Highlights:

(game photos from here and here)

The upshot The defense looks improved. The offense: lots of yards, but they make some mistakes, and had they been playing against a B1G defense, they would have turned the ball over even more. WKU dropped some potential interceptions and were within a fingernail of a couple of more.

September 7, 2014 Posted by | college football, football | | 3 Comments

What kind of football fan I am

Workout notes cool morning; great running weather but I was heavy legged and my right heel hurt just a bit. I ran the W. Peoria course (flat); 40:38 (20:15/20:23) so it was pretty evenly paced, if slow.

Then I went to the Illinois game.

What sort of fan I am: Many know more about football than I do, especially in which team is better than which other team. I am the son of an old football coach, and a former incompetent high school football player. I started two years on the JV and one on the varsity but fared poorly against those headed to play at the next level.

So, I do know the game but not as well as some.

Many who know the game better than I do enjoy watching on the television: they have the comforts of home and can see more games; it takes time to drive to see live football.

Many who go to the game are mostly there for the experience (the music, tail gating, etc.; they want their team to win, but for some, that is almost secondary.

I am one of those who likes the game of football itself; I very much care about the action on the field.

On the other hand, I love the trappings of a game. For me, there is little better than walking into the stadium, past the vendors with program in hand, taking in the sights and smells of the cooking food.

I like watching the game and seeing the stuff that the camera doesn’t show you (e. g. that lineman who was previously out limping..and calling to be replaced, or a coach correcting the mistake made by an individual player, etc.).

For me, there is nothing like being there. 🙂

September 7, 2014 Posted by | college football, football, NFL, running | , | Leave a comment