Let me make this clear: The Gophers do have a better team this year and clearly deserved to win this game. No argument about that from me.
But when one sees “Minnesota 40”, I can’t blame someone from thinking “oh, another putrid performance by the Illini defense.” And yes, the Gophers did run for 171 yards, but they only had 283 total yards.
Just look at the length of their scoring drives:
9 yards, touchdown (the Illini fumbled in the backfield with no one around them on their first play from scrimmage; it appeared to be a botched hand off…no defender in the backfield).
20 yards, touchdown (the Illini fumbled a punt; the Gophers scored on the first play)
49 yards, touchdown (short punt from the Illini after a 3 and out)
70 yards, touchdown (ok, that one is on the defense)
5 yards, field goal (sack and strip by the Gopher defense)
10 yards, touchdown (Illini turn it over on downs at their own 10)
26 points came by the defense or on drives of 20 yards or less! The Illni defense did not play that poorly.
The problem, this game, was the mistakes, 2 which were unforced and one was a coach’s decision late in the game.
Still, it was 21-14 going into the 4’th quarter and the offense, for all of their miscues, did put together two nifty drives; they especially looked good on their first touchdown drive. The line opened big holes and the true freshman quarterback hit a great play action pass to put them in scoring position.
Overall, it was the mistakes, and I think that part of it is that the Illini are simply too thin to absorb injury losses.
There is a video of the highlights at the end.
But here is what I really want to talk about:
With 5 minutes to go, Illinois had kicked a field goal (healthy 53 yard kick too) to cut the lead from 33-14 to 33-17; it is now a “two touchdown with two 2-point conversions” game. An onside kick failed, but the Gophers attempt to run out the clock (back up quarterback) and the Illini use their time outs to get the ball back at their own 10.
They go nowhere and with 4:38 to go, it is 4’th and 10 at the Illini 10.
I thought that they might punt; instead they go for it and fail. 2 plays later, the Gophers score again to push it to 40-17, which is how it ends.
I really hoped that they would punt but I suppose Coach Smith decided to gamble for the win, even though it was a long shot.
Was that the right call?
I remember the Texas vs. Oklahoma game in 1985. There was just over a minute left in the game and Texas was down 14-7. Texas was deep in their own territory and it was 4’th and long. Texas punted to keep the score down.
Now, that game WAS different; Texas was to finish 8-4 (bowl loss) and Oklahoma 11-1 (national championship). Oklahoma smothered Texas that day; Texas had 70 yards of offense….TOTAL. TOTAL; not a misprint. And in this game, Illinois did have three scoring drives; they did move the ball well at times.
Still, I winced at the final score; the Illini defense played better than that.
Here are a couple of my photos. Note: the announced crowd was 40,000; some arrived late due to tailgating. It was homecoming weekend. My good friend Tracy went with me and it was a lot of fun; she is great company.
Yesterday I went to the Minnesota vs. Illinois football game. I’ll comment more on that in my next post.
The above photo shows me (on the left) with my friend Tracy. I sure enjoyed myself.
But when I see myself, I see an old man. It is weird. When I see this photo and someone tells me “this guy “runs” at about 11-11:30 mpm in training”, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least. I LOOK like someone who does that.
If you tell me that this guy would struggle to get 3-5 reps with 185 in the bench press (hips down, dammit!), I’d say “I expect that”.
But when the above actually happens, I am still surprised. Sometimes aging is tough to accept. I have a sense of humor about it though.
On today’s 5 mile run (glorious, simply glorious running weather) a faster runner called out to me as he was getting ready to pass me “Ollie, I am about to pass you on your left”. He may have been doing, oh, 7-7:30 mpm? I laughed and said “how do you know that I am not going to beat you today?”…and he chuckled a bit…and disappeared into the distance.
Yesterday: 4 mile walk in Bradley Park.
Today: weights then a 5 mile run; actually 5.3 miles in 58:56 (just over 1 minute faster on the way back; behind the Riverplex, around the gooseloop and to Rose hill intersection in the cemetery.
Weights: rotator cuff, a few free squats, pull ups (15-10-10-10-5), bench press: 10 x 135, 3 x 185, 7 x 170, incline press: 10 x 135, military: 8 x 50 standing, 10 x 45, 10 x 45 (dumbbells), 3 sets of 10 x 50 rows, 2 sets of 12 twist crunch, 10 yoga leg lifts, 10 moving half bridges, headstand.
It was all good and I am grateful that I can do it at all. Still my lack of performance bothers me…at times.
Workout notes: treadmill 4 mile run; tried to warm up a little bit quicker but my first attempts at 6.7 mph (1:30, 2, then 5 minutes) were a bit ragged. I was at mile 2 in 21:06 or so; I finally got to 6.7 again at 24 minutes into it and was able to throw in 6.8, 6.9 and 7 at the end. Total time: 38:36 for 4 miles…then some free squats.
Run notes: I have a feisty friend who (teasingly?) admonishes me to not check out her butt; when she passes me she turns and says “eyes up…my eyes are up here”. So seeing this yoga photo made me chuckle..and I made this meme:
Workout notes: Yesterday, weights then an easy 4 mile walk along the Illinois River. Weights: 5 sets of 10 pull ups (reasonably good), bench presses were weak: 10 x 135, 1 x 185, 5 x 170, 7 x 155. Incline: 7 x 135.
military presses: 10 x 45 (2 sets) 10 x 40. Rows: 3 sets of 10 with last two 45/25 on each side. Abs: 2 sets of twist crunch yoga leg lifts and then headstand.
This morning: my usual route from the Heights Tower to the Forest Park Nature Center, 1:14 lower loop, 28 minutes for the spur back. Lots of leaves but good footing; pace was deliberate.
Along the way I chatted briefly with someone who was at last night’s Western Illinois vs. North Dakota State football game, a mom with her 15 year old son and some scavenger hunters. Total time was 2:30, about 10 minutes slower than the usual.
When I finish this, I’ll finish off some paperwork for my job.
Well, you didn’t expect me to miss the chance to see a football game, did you? When I saw that North Dakota State (winners of the last FIVE FCS national championships in a row) was visiting, I took the 90 minute (each way) trip to Macomb to watch the game.
I got there way early; it actually takes about 80 minutes and parking is plentiful…and there is a free lot right next to the stadium:
And tickets: 10 dollars for general admission and 15 for reserved; actually though I bought a reserved ticket, I moved to general admission so I could use the top row for its backrest and for standing. Even the top row seats are equal to prime seats at a Big Ten game. The concessions were more “hot dogs and chips” stuff so those with special dietary needs to take stuff in or tailgate (and there was a large, active, festive tailgate area). They had nice game programs which were free!
The post sunset sky was lovely; it was a perfect, crisp night for college football.
The teams walk from locker rooms which were about 100 yards away from the field.
As far as the FCS level: the teams don’t have the depth to complete, say, a Big Ten schedule. But their starters are excellent; just ask Northern Illinois (lost to Western Illinois), Northwestern (lost to Illinois State) or Iowa (lost to North Dakota State). My guess is that at least a couple of players I saw have a shot of playing on Sundays.
The game itself: it started off well for NDSU: they got a stop and then on their opening possession, drove it 60+ yards for a touchdown. It looked way too easy.
They used a mix of formations including a two tight end “pistol” package, the I and the conventional spread.
WIU countered with a drive and a field goal; they used a clock burning “run the clock down before running a play” scheme. NDSU got a touchdown and, on their next possession, threw an interception. WIU converted it to another field goal and it was 14-6.
NDSU ran an excellent 2 minute drill to score its third TD before the end of the half; WIU got the ball with 45 seconds to go and drove it close enough to get a field goal attempt, which was blocked. So it was 21-6 at the half.
I noticed that the WIU secondary made some fine open field tackles to prevent long touchdown runs; I wondered if NDSU would blow it open in the second half.
WIU actually controlled play the rest of the game, but mistakes cost them dearly.
WIU got a stop and then made a nice drive to cut the lead to 21-13; it appeared to me that momentum was shifting.
Then came the first of 2 key plays. WIU intercepted the ball and ran it back inside the NDSU 5 yard line. But a late hit on WIU pushed them back to the 20…the NDSU defense held and then blocked the field goal attempt.
WIU got the ball back and got first and goal at the 8. A pass made it to the 1 (I thought the runner was going to score, but he was turned back by a hard tackle. The next two plays from the 1 were stuffed, but NDSU was offside on 4’th down, so WIU got another chance. The runner fumbled the ball just prior to entering the end zone and NDSU recovered.
Still, WIU wasn’t finished; they stopped NDSU (who botched a field goal on a bad hold), threw another interception, but got the ball back again.
But at the end they were on their own end of the field with 40 seconds to go and no time outs; a final interception finished them off.
It was a great game to watch and extra exciting if you were a fan of either team (I was cheering for Western Illinois)
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