What’s in store for Illinois Football this year?

Ok, time to speculate on what might happen to Illinois football.

I’ve heard it said that Illinois regressed between 2015 and 2016. I am not so sure.
Yes, Illinois went 5-7 in 2015 and 3-9 in 2016. BUT:
1) the 5-7 record was against a schedule that featured 8 Big Ten games; the 3-9 featured 9 Big Ten games.
In 2015, the Illini went 2-6 (narrow win vs. Nebraska at home, easy win at Purdue); the 2016 version went 2-7, winning easily at Rutgers and narrowly at home vs. Michigan State.

2. As far as the non-conference schedule, in 2015 they had two easy wins vs bad opponents, a blowout loss to North Carolina and a very narrow win vs. Middle Tennessee (missed field goal at the very end). In 2016, the Illini faced North Carolina and a strong Western Michigan team (both blowout losses) and one very bad FCS team (easy win)

3. In 2015, two of the wins were, well very fortunate. As I stated earlier, Middle Tennessee missed a 41 yard field goal at the end and the game against Nebraska: well, let’s just say that Nebraska had the game all but won and had some terrible clock management with about 1:2x to play and Illinois out of time outs. Those could have easily been losses.

On the other hand, Illinois really should have won the Purdue game at home; they made some key mistakes in regulation and in overtime.

So what is in store? Via ESPN

Sat, Sept 2 vs Ball State 68.7% -11.2 (104) —
Sat, Sept 9 vs Western Kentucky 52.0% -5.3 (80) —
Fri, Sept 15 @ South Florida 14.5% 3.9 (47) —
Fri, Sept 29 vs Nebraska 36.4% 1.6 (56) —
Sat, Oct 7 @ Iowa 13.5% 5.4 (40) —
Sat, Oct 14 vs Rutgers 56.2% -7.4 (88) —
Sat, Oct 21 @ Minnesota 25.5% -1.4 (68) —
Sat, Oct 28 vs Wisconsin 6.3% 17.5 (9) —
Sat, Nov 4 @ Purdue 49.0% -9.5 (97) —
Sat, Nov 11 vs Indiana 33.2% 1.0 (59) —
Sat, Nov 18 @ Ohio State 0.8% 29.1 (1) —
Sat, Nov 25 vs Northwestern 16.3% 8.8 (29)

What this means: Illinois is favored in 3 games (Ball State, Western Kentucky, Rutgers), and almost even vs. Purdue.
Best chances for upsets: Nebraska and Indiana at home, Minnesota on the road.

My take:

1) Western Kentucky is underrated. They split with Louisiana Tech last year; I really do not see the Illini winning this game.
2) As far as Illinois vs Purdue: the visiting team has won the last 5 games. Maybe we will see a 6’th?

I can really take nothing for granted; not even Ball State (though the Illini really should win that game).

My best guess:
6-6 if everything goes right (wins over Ball State, Rutgers, Purdue, the 3 of (WKU, Neb, MN, IN, NW)
2-10 if everything goes wrong (Ball State, Rutgers)

Realistically: 4-8 (a lot like Beckman’s 2’nd team), with wins over Ball State, Rutgers, Purdue, and ONE of (WKU, Neb, MN, IN, NW) This closely aligns with the above ESPN model, that has Illinois winning 3.7 games.

The bottom line is that the Illini lost almost all of their best players from last year, save the star wide receiver who hurt his knee the last two years in a row; will be the same?

Most of the magazines are saying 2-10 to 3-9.

Fan note: the fact that I made up a spreadsheet of Illinois games (season tickets), Illinois State games (maybe 3?), Colts games (maybe 2?) and Bears games (1-2?) means nothing. 🙂

Workout notes: 5 treadmill miles in 1:02:15 (walking); thunderstorms outside.

July 22, 2017 Posted by | college football, football, walking | | Leave a comment

Thrilling finish to the National Championship game and pick plays

Like many college football fans, I was spellbound by Clemson’s 35-31 thriller over Alabama. Clearly, these really were the best two football teams in the land, and they played an “instant classic” game; it reminded me of the Texas vs. USC thriller so many years ago.

But this game had some controversy toward the end. Because I follow Notre Dame (one of “my” teams, albeit behind Navy, Texas and Illinois), I remembered this “pick play” which DID draw an “offensive pass interference” penalty.


But this play did NOT:

Why? This article has a nice explanation of the difference. Roughly speaking: it isn’t illegal if you can get the defenders to run into each other, but one isn’t allowed to block downfield (not past 1 yard).

Here is another article about these type of pass patterns (albeit at the NFL level)

January 11, 2017 Posted by | college football, football, NFL | Leave a comment

Armed Forces Bowl 2016: Navy loses a heartbreaker to Louisiana Tech 48-45

One of our mini-vacations was to go to Fort Worth to see the Armed Forces Bowl between Navy and Louisiana Tech. Navy came in with losses to Temple in the AAC Championship game (34-10) and to Army 21-17. Louisiana Tech lost a shootout to Western Kentucky in the Conference USA championship game, though they had defeated WKU in the regular season. I saw this bowl in 2013.

So it was no. 2 Conference USA vs. no. 2 AAC, and it was a great game. Navy piled up 459 total yards, including 300 on the ground; Louisiana Tech got 497, with 409 coming via the air.

Tech won 48-45, but it was quite a shootout, with the winning points coming on a field goal on the last play of the game.

The Bulldogs started things off with a big kick return from half of their two man wrecking crew; that set them up at the Navy 16 and the Bulldogs punched it in. Navy fumbled on their second play from scrimmage and the Bulldogs answered with a field goal to go up 10-0 early. The teams settled down, and aside from a rare punt, it was score, score, score.

Navy went in to the half trailing 31-24.

The second half saw Navy eat up 7 minutes to tie the game at 31. Tech fumbled in scoring position on their next position but Navy had to punt. Then Tech scored to go up 38-31; but the Midshipmen answered.


Tech scored again in the 4’th to take a brief lead. Then the Mids got the ball back, lost their starting quarterback (who was 3’rd team at the start of the season) only to have the backup run for a touchdown on his first touch. 45-45! But that left 3:46 on the clock, and the Midshipmen had used their timeouts. So the Bulldogs moved the ball and wisely milked the clock, which enabled them to kick the winning field goal on the final play of the game.

Overall, it was wild. Navy complained about some calls. One pass interference call, you can see in a gif file. The Navy defender did tug at the arm..which is a penalty.


But this hand fighting was overlooked on other plays; my guess is that the Tech receiver, being an outstanding player, got the benefit of the doubt. And no. 5 just killed up; 200+ receiving yards.



My photos

The game itself

The Bulldog offense lines up



Navy’s offense


Navy’s defense regroups


High drama at the end; 17 seconds to go; the Tech band in the background.


Before and after the game

Where I did my exercise walk prior to leaving for the game: this old golf course has been converted into a park with sidewalk trails; it includes a dog park.


Barbara and Jacob near the Davy O’Bryan statue on the TCU campus.


The opposing band


The Brigade contingent at the game. This was me 36 years ago (at the old Garden State Bowl in December 1980)


Navy enters the field!


Halftime enlistment ceremony


Selfie at the game


On the way back to the car: note the purple (TCU’s color)


Mexican food after the game


December 25, 2016 Posted by | college football, football, travel | , | Leave a comment

Iowa leaves Illinois out in the cold 28-0

It was 37 F and very windy…cold. That, plus Illinois being on Fall Break made for a sparse crowd. Even Barbara waited this one out in the warm Student Union.

She didn’t miss much though; the first half saw a defensive battle in which Illinois could not take advantage of an interception. In the second quarter, Iowa drove down deep and on 3’rd down, ran it inside the Illinois 2 only to be stripped of the ball. Illinois couldn’t move the ball though and punted..and had the punt returned for a touchdown.

Iowa wide receiver Riley McCarron (83) returns a punt for a touchdown during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against Illinois, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016, at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill. (AP Photo/Bradley Leeb)

Iowa wide receiver Riley McCarron (83) returns a punt for a touchdown during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against Illinois, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016, at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill. (AP Photo/Bradley Leeb)

That was the scoring for the first half.

I watched the third quarter from the upper deck hoping to get some sun. No avail, but I had a great view of a 76 yard touchdown drive by Iowa that ate up about 7 minutes (mostly running).

The Illini threw an interception and Iowa attempted a drive. But they got it to the 22 and went for it on 4’th and long, due to field goal kicking woes (and a strong wind). They did not make it.

Illinois drove it to the 48 and on 4’th and 3, went for it and failed; 2 plays later Iowa broke a 50+ yard touchdown run to go up 21-0. The Illini fumbled the ensuing kick off; Iowa said “thank you” via another short touchdown drive to ice it 28-0.

Iowa finished with 262 rushing yards and won the overall yardage battle 342-198. The Illini defense played reasonably well for a half but was eventually worn down by Iowa’s running.

Highlights (if you want to call them that)

My photos:




Workout notes: 4 mile walk in 46:38 on the treadmill. Yeah, that is slightly faster than some of my training runs.

November 20, 2016 Posted by | college football, football, walking | | Leave a comment

Fun FCS afternoon: Illinois State beats Missouri State 37-0

Workout notes: weights then a short 2 mile walk. weights: rotator cuff, pull ups (15-15-10-10), incline press: 10 x 135, 7 x 150, 10 x 135, military press: 3 sets of 10 x 180 machine, rows: 3 sets of 10 machine rows, headstand, 2 sets of 12 twist crunch, 10 yoga leg lifts.

The Riverplex was a spandex palace!

Then to watch some FCS ball: Illinois State vs. Missouri State:



The game itself was a butt kicking. It ended 37-0, with the Redbirds rolling up 514 total yards, including 268 rushing yards. It was 20-0 at the half, and that included a field goal off of a turn over and a touchdown when Missouri State went for it on 4’th and 1 on their own 37.

The second half: more domination; the line opened big holes and gave the quarterback plenty of time to find open receivers.

In other games; I missed Navy’s exciting 42-40 win over Tulsa, Notre Dames 44-6 wipe out of Army, Texas losing 24-20 to West Virginia and Illinois getting bombed 48-3 by Wisconsin.

November 13, 2016 Posted by | college football, football | | Leave a comment

Illinois 31 Michigan State 27: zero turnovers for the Illini

Ok, the stats might tell a different story: total offense: Michigan State 490, Illinois 304. Time of possession: 41:36 to 18:34, Michigan State’s favor. First downs: 28 to 14, Spartans.

But the Spartans had trouble finishing drives, kicking 4 field goals and turning it over on downs at the Illini 15. The Illini got touchdowns (and one field goal) and that was the difference.

The game started predictably enough. Illinois went 3 and out; Michigan State had a long drive for a field goal. 3 and out for the Illini again; long drive by MSU reaches the Illini 15 before 2 holding penalties and a sack push them out of field goal range; the MSU offensive line had trouble with the Illini pass rush all day.

Then it was mostly punts prior to a short field drive leading to a MSU field goal and a 6-0 lead with 2 minutes to go in the half; at this stage, Illinois has ZERO first downs.

But then momentum shifted for good: the Illini put together a 73 yard touchdown drive, mostly on passing but a nifty draw play for 19 yards finished the drive. So at the half, Illinois lead 7-6 though MSU had won from the scrimmage line for the first 28 minutes.


The second half saw MSU make another drive, for another field goal. It was now 9-7, but Illinois struck back with a drive of its own capped by a 64 yard touchdown run. The Illini was looking sharp; the line was blocking well. Then MSU fumbled on a running play; Illinois recovered but had to settle for a field goal. 17-9.

There was an exchange of punts, then Michigan State’s first touchdown drive of the afternoon; they hit a pass for 2 points to tie it at 17 going into the 4’th.

But by now, the Illini offense was clicking; a 70 yard touchdown drive followed. It was now 24-17.

Michigan State took 6 minutes off of the clock and got a field goal to cut it to 24-20. The MSU defense got a stop and then came the next to last Michigan State drive.

On 3’rd and 4 at the 13, the MSU quarterback hit the tight end right in the hands in the endzone..and he dropped it. But on 4’th down, a MSU receiver made a spectacular catch at the end of the endzone to put MSU up 27-24 with 2:52 to play. I thought that Illinois might lose.

But the Illini came right back, aided by a couple of pass interference calls (one was very obvious). A touchdown pass put the Illini up 31-27 with 1:35 to play.

But then MSU drove it down to the Illini 15, but turned it over on downs. That ended the game.

It was quite a beautiful fall day; I got in a 3 mile walk prior to it.

Now for a few of my photos:

Celebrating the win after the game:


Game action:


Cubs tribute at halftime:


Taking the field:


Fall colors on campus:


November 6, 2016 Posted by | college football, football | | 1 Comment

Minnesota 40 Illinois 17: Illini Defense deserved better

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.








October 30, 2016 Posted by | college football, football | , | Leave a comment

FCS football can be fun: Western Illinois vs. North Dakota State

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)


October 23, 2016 Posted by | college football, football, hiking, walking, weight training | , | Leave a comment

FCS football can be fun too…

I caught an Illinois State game this past Saturday. It was a last second decision; I bought my ticket about 2.5 hours before the game started. They seated me in row 3, with some of the athletes (volleyball players), coaches and parents.

Though it was a fun experience, I think that I’d prefer higher up; plays toward the corner of the end zone were obscured by the players on the sideline. Still, I was close enough to hear the coaches, players and the hitting.

Yes, this was FCS, but Illinois State beat Northwestern this year and Southern Illinois has competed with big time teams before.

Southern raced out to a 10-0 lead before ISU rallied. ISU’s offense was mostly big plays: a 55 yard run here, 42 yard pass there. ISU took momentum and lead 14-10 before a key play at the end of the half. Southern made a long drive and hit a pass to the ISU 1 yard line. But only 10 seconds were left, but they had time outs. A running play into the line was called, and the runner fumbled the ball while going into the end zone, at it was recovered for a touchback. So the half ended 14-10.

The third quarter was just a ton of action; a field goal cut the lead to 14-13; a long ISU pass pushed the lead to 21-13, but Southern came right back to tie the game with a touchdown and a 2 pointer.

But ISU burned Southen with another bomb to put the lead 28-21 going into the 4’th.

A nifty 50 yard field goal (each team had a 50 yarder) pushed the lead to 31-21. But Southern still had life. The got the ball for one final drive and scored to cut the lead to 31-28. But ISU recovered the onside kick and ended up running out the clock. Southern had time outs but an offside penalty on 3’rd down lead to a time run off and the end of the game.



First quarter action.


Southern punting later in the game.


ISU scored their first TD on this play; it was set up by a 55 yard run.

October 18, 2016 Posted by | college football, football | | Leave a comment

Purdue 34, Illinois 31. I am a terrible fan.

I’ve had season tickets since the 2011 season (via the university since the 2012 season). I’ll renew next year…even though the Illini will be very fortunate to win 1 or 2 more games the rest of the year. Why? I love the games, and though the Illini lost to Purdue 34-31, the game was a thriller. I wish that the Illini had won and been celebrating with their fans and band, but the game had me on the edge of my seat the whole way.

My summary: yes, you can talk about the missed field goal at the end of regulation. But the kicker made 3 of 4, including some tough kicks. You can talk about the fumble in overtime, but the player who did that also made some spectacular runs and lead his team to 25 of its 31 points. The kicking and offense was fine. The team simply could not stop Purdue and made some “loss of cool” penalties that made Purdue’s field shorter.


Total yards were pretty even: 499 to 459, and Illinois ran for 315 yards, Purdue for 231. But ultimately, when a team gains almost 500 yards and scores 31 points, they should win.

Illinois moved swiftly to the Purdue 5 (mostly running) and had second and goal at the 1.


But the Purdue defense played good goal line defense and forced a field goal attempt, which was good.

The troubles began when the Illini could not stop the Purdue ground game. It was 7-6 soon after the end of first quarter on a long field goal. The Illini starting quarterback was hurt on a late hit, but the backup ran for 137 yards and hit a few key passes. IN THIS GAME, the offense was more effective with the back up in the game.


A flanker screen by Purdue made the score 14-6 but the Illini marched right back to cut it to 14-13. But then Purdue got the ball back, and you know the drill by now. A long field goal by Illinois made the score 21-16 at the half.

The third quarter saw a Purdue field goal and then the Illni scoring on an 88 yard drive; the key play was a spectacular “catch off of a tip”. So it was 24-23 Boilers going into the final quarter. A balanced 70 plus yard drive capped by a 2 point conversion put the Illni up 31-24, but you know the drill. Purdue marched right back to tie the game…

Then when the Illini were forced to punt late in the game, Purdue started a drive with about 1:20 left and 3 time outs. But with about 50 seconds to go, INTERCEPTION off of a tip! The Illini were at their own 41 with times outs to burn.

And they got it down to the Purdue 24 with 9 seconds to go…and 2 time outs left. But they were on the left hash mark. The Illini elected to run down the clock to 3 seconds and to kick rather than risk running a play to the center of the field.

The kick: off of the right upright. Overtime.

Illini start, make a first down…then fumble.

Purdue gets the ball, drives it to about the 10 and then run a play to the center of the field.


The kick was good. Purdue wins. Still one hell of a game though.

Highlight videos (and there a lot of them)

My photos:


Last minute action.


The winning kick.


Student section.


Pregame fight song; the band has bock “I” in Il I ni.

October 9, 2016 Posted by | college football, football | | 1 Comment