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Has Illinois Football hit rock bottom? Lose at home to Rutgers 35-24

Ok, my 4 mile training run prior to the game went ok. But in terms of college football: Illinois State got stomped 42-7 at Southern Illinois, Texas lost 29-24 to Oklahoma (but came back valiantly) and Navy’s rally came up short against a strong Memphis team 30-27. I saw the last quarter of the latter on TV and the last couple of minutes of the Texas vs. OU game.

But I was there for the Illinois vs. Rutgers debacle.

This is the kind of game it was: 54 yard field goal attempt hits the upright:
We had a fluky interception while the game was still competitive (sort of)
We also had a boneheded play on a punt.

But I suppose this blog post summed it up

Ok, how did it go, really?

Well, in terms of stats, Illinois had a slight edge, due to Rutgers sitting on the ball in the 4’th quarter and a couple of late touchdown drives to make the score slightly more respectable. But Rutgers rushed for 274 yards, including 106 in the first 17 minutes of the game.

The game started with an exchange of punts, then Rutgers fumbled the ball away at the 30. The offense managed to lose 7 yards on their drive and Illinois 54 yard field goal attempt hit the upright.

From then on: mostly Rutgers. A long drive (mostly running) lead to the 7-0 score; Illinois countered with a nice drive to cut the lead to 7-3, but then another long drive put Rutgers up 14-3.

The Illini hit some passes to get it down close, then on 4’th and goal, well, upon review..Illinois was given the touchdown..oh-so-close.

No problem..Rutgers with another long drive and they are up 21-10 at the half.

Illinois opening drive in the second half ended with a fluke interception.

But in this quarter, Illinois mostly stopped Rutgers…EXCEPT for this dreadful play on a Rutgers punt (what was the Illinois guy thinking?)

Rutgers punched it in and it was now 28-10 and the fans started to leave in droves.

Some nice passing put Illinois within 11 at 28-17 with about 8 minutes to go…no worries…another long drive put the game away at 35-17, though we did have one garbage time TD with just over a minute to go.

Highlights:

Photos:

Our seats (white box)

The band.

Not a huge crowd at kick off.

Barbara was a good sport.

Click to see the larger panoramic photo of the emptying stadium..

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October 15, 2017 Posted by | college football, football, running, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Bears Trip

Ok, I did get to see a Monday night game between the Bears and the Vikings. The game was fun (but Soldier field’s concourses are way too narrow and there aren’t enough bathrooms; it is insanely crowded during halftime)

The Vikings won 20-17, based mostly on a field goal off of a strip sack, and off of an interception with just over 2 minutes to go. Otherwise, it was a slugfest with both teams getting 2 touchdowns apiece in the second half. The Bears had the two coolest plays of the night, but overall, the mistakes made the difference.

The Bears got a few yards off of their opening possession and then the teams traded punts several times, with the Vikings losing the field position battle. An end zone sack gave the Bears a 2-0 lead, and it stayed that way until the strip sack set up the Vikings for a field goal and a 3-2 halftime lead (seriously)

The Vikings scored on their opening drive in the second half (and had a funny end zone celebration; they played “duck, duck, goose”) and then the Bears scored on a beautiful fake punt. The Vikings scored again (58 yard run) but the Bears retaliated in the 4’th quarter (tipped pass) and hit a very cool 2-point conversion (handoff-lateral). And it remained even until the last second interception (which I worried out loud about prior to it happening).

Trivia: I saw the Bears rookie quaterback play last year when North Carolina visited Illinois, and I saw the Vikings quarterback play when he was with the Rams (and yes, he got hurt all the time then too). He got hurt this game, going down on a play where a lineman was pushed into him.

Via the Bears Instagram page.

Oct 9, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears linebacker Leonard Floyd (94) sacks Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford (8) for a safety during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Game selfie with Barbara.

From our seats (section 225)

October 12, 2017 Posted by | football, NFL | | Leave a comment

The Illinois “oh no…I’ve been drinking the orange kool-aid game”

I started getting season tickets for Illinois football in 2011. Every season, they have that one home game where they lay an egg..or rather, get exposed. Ok, this season, I think it was the Nebraska game; Nebraska was a 6.5 point favorite but many Illinois fans (myself included) smelled “upset”. Nebraska dominated 28-6 in a game that wasn’t even that close; Nebraska had 8 possessions: 4 touchdowns, “victory formation” at the end of the game (passing up a final score), a fumble and 2 punts.

Today, Illinois played a good first half, but killed themselves with drive stopping penalties and a end zone interception, and fell asleep on a fake punt.

Photo from the Illinois Football photo gallery.

Still, it was a good game at the half (17-13, Hawkeyes). Second half: 28-3 Iowa, which included a pick-6 and another interception return to set up a touchdown toward the end.

It finished 45-16, though Illinois had a slight edge in total yards.

It is going to be a long season as Lovie Smith builds the program from the ground up. And, to be bunt: yes, some of the current freshman starters will emerge into stars, but some (many) will be displaced by more talented players in the future.
You can’t really call this “rebuilding”; this is “building from scratch”.

Past “oh s*it” Illinois home games:

2011: Illini start with 6 straight wins: Arkansas State, South Dakota State, Arizona State (ranked at the time, finished 6-7), Western Michigan, Northwestern and Indiana (road).

But then came Ohio State and a 17-7 loss at home that let the air out of the balloon. Who knew that Ohio State, Michigan, wisconsin and Penn State would be a step up in competition?

2012: Illinois was 2-1 though they had gotten hammered by a strong Arizona State team on the road..and hosted Louisiana Tech…it ended up 52-24, but that was because of an Illinois garbage time touchdown at the end. No more wins the rest of the way.

2013: Illinois was 3-2 with a respectable “Chicago home field” loss to a ranked Washington team and one hammering at Nebraska and a very nice home win vs. Cincinnati. Still, a bowl seemed reachable..and Illinois hosted Wisconsin after a bye week. Night game…and early in the first quarter Wisconsin was up 21-0. It ended up 56-32 with Illinois getting a garbage time TD.

2014: This bowl season had a couple of lows. Illinois came into the Purdue game 3-2, albeit with some blowout losses on the road. But winless Purdue seemed to be beatable…and Purdue hit repeated long runs for touchdowns. The fans almost openly rebelled (booing).

Illinois rebounded for a nice win vs. Minnesota (who had a good team) and was 4-5 going into the Iowa game. That was a time for the team to make a statement…and Iowa blew Illinois away 30-14 which drove the fans into open rebellion (boos, and an empty stadium the next week vs. Penn State).

But Illinois rallied to beat Penn State and Northwestern and make a bowl.

2015: This was even keeled, sort of. There was a bad loss to North Carolina and a tough, hard fought loss to Iowa (on the road), plus a nice upset of Nebraska. Illinois was 4-2 when Wisconsin came visiting. When Wisconsin left, Illinois was 4-3, and was to win only one more game the rest of the year.

2016: well, this season ended 3-9 but Illinois was 1-1 after an easy win over an FCS program and a big loss (48-23) to a strong North Carolina team (sell out!). A good Western Michigan team visited (still a MAC team) and pounded Illinois 34-10, passing on a “style points” touchdown toward the end. That made it clear what was going to happen the rest of the way (though Illinois managed a couple of Big Ten wins along the way).

October 7, 2017 Posted by | college football, football | | Leave a comment

Football weekend: Illinois vs. Nebraska and Illinois State vs. Indiana State

workout notes: easy 4 mile walk after we got back from Champaign. Yes, I lifted weights on Friday morning (got 190 x 4 on the bench; pull ups, and even some goblet squats)

The Illinois vs. Nebraska game (Friday night)

Though Nebraska was a 6.5 point favorite (and ESPN gave them a 60 percent chance of winning the game), based on previous results, I really thought this was a matchup of equals that Illinois was going to win. After all, both teams had gotten blown out on the road by ranked teams (Oregon, South Florida) and Illinois won their MAC team game (Nebraska narrowly lost). I thought that the talent level was equal, though Nebraska had more experienced players.

I could not have been more wrong. Nebraska had stronger, faster and more experienced players.

Nebraska scored touchdowns on its first (and only) 3 possessions of the first half, and were to punt twice and turn it over on a fumble once; their final possession ended with the “victory formation” deep in Illinois territory; they passed on trying for “style points”

It was 21-3 at the half and ended 28-6. Illinois drive in the first half ended up stalling inside the 10, and a short field in the second half (from a short punt) also ended in a field goal to cut the lead to 21-6. But after getting the fumble, Illinois went backwards (got sacked) and had to punt; that appeared to take the wind out of the sails.

Total yards: 411 to 199 in Nebraska’s favor. Nebraska had 8 possessions: 4 ended with touchdowns, 2 ended with punts, 1 with a fumble, 1 with a victory formation.

Highlights:

Illinois State 24 Indiana State 13
Though Illinois State came in 3-0 and Indiana State was 0-3, one of ISU-blue’s losses was to Tennessee; the other two losses were a 2 point loss to Eastern Illinois and a 1 point loss to no. 19 ranked (FCS) Liberty.

The first quarter saw most of the offense come from long passes; ISU-B did not get close enough for a field goal, ISU-R did. A strip fumble on a punt return set up the Redbirds, but eventually they failed on a 4’th and 2 from the 4. But never mind; the defense got strip sack in the endzone for the touchdown.

The second quarter saw the Redbirds score on two long passes where they got 1 on 1 coverage on one of their best receivers; it was 24-0 at the half. One touchdown got away when the Redbird runner fumbled while going into the endzone.

The Redbirds had over 300 yards of total offense in the first half.

But then came the second half; ISU-b got a pick 6 and then a drive for a touchdown to cut the lead to 24-13. The Redbirds still had a couple of drives; one ended with a fumble on a bad shotgun snap; the other was a plain old fumble. But the Redbirds got just enough out of a key 4’th quarter drive to flip field position, and the defense played pretty well the entire time. Total yards finished 401-197 Redbirds.

Photos

Illinois vs. Nebraska

Pregame band music included the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Pregame jump

Lots of good seats left, especially in the upper deck.

Some game action shots. From the Champaign Room gallery (lots more here)

Barbara was good company.

Decent lower deck crowd at first

Fans gave up.

Illinois State vs. Indiana State

ISU pregame

First half action. Good crowd: a sell out (over 13K)

Strip Sack for a TD. (from here)

Pretty sunset.

Fans left a bit early; there was some drama in the 4’th quarter to be watched.

October 1, 2017 Posted by | college football, football, walking, weight training | , | 1 Comment

Trump’s failed war on the NFL

Yes, Puerto Rico is devastated and many lack both power and drinking water. And yes, Trump refuses to waive an arcane rule about what ships can go to Puerto Rico.

But he can attack the NFL and encourage fans to “boycott” and owners to fire players.

I doubt that it is going well for him. I note, with glee, that I now have tickets for 3 Bears games (ok, the Packer game tickets were pricey, but in row 2 of the upper deck); the other two sets of tickets are in the second deck (200); one is in the media deck and the other is the end zone.

I am planning on going to a Colts game as well; maybe two?

Now why we play the National Anthem at sporting events? Here is how it started …not sure why we continue OTHER than because many fans like it.

And as far as the discussion on the protests, just look at the contrast between Obama and Trump. But alas, a big part of our country’s problem is that all too many prefer Trump’s style (“fire that son of a bitch”) to Obama’s thoughtful style.

September 27, 2017 Posted by | football, NFL, politics, politics/social | , | Leave a comment

Drinking the Blue and Orange Kool Aid by the gallon

Yes, the Illini are 2-0. How often does that happen? Well, it depends on when the first “game against a power 5 team” is scheduled….

2011: wins over Arkansas State and South Dakota State (2-0…4-6 the rest)
2012: Western Michigan first, then Arizona State…ooops 1-1 (1-9 the rest)
2013: Southern Illinois and Cincinnati (latter WAS an impressive upset) (2-8 the rest
2014: Youngstown State and Western Kentucky (4-6 the rest..but did finish 2-0)
2015: Kent State and Western Illinois (3-7 the rest)
2016: Murray State and…ooops…North Carolina at home (1-1, 2-8 the rest)
2017: Ball State and Western Kentucky: 2-0…the rest?

Oh, what about road wins: 1, 0, 1, 1, 1, 1: 5, count them, 5 road wins over the previous 6 seasons.

Maybe I won’t book Big Ten Championship tickets just yet…

Workout notes: yesterday, weights: rotator cuff, hip hikes, toe raises, 5 sets of 10 pull ups, incline presses: 10 x 135, 4 x 160, 7 x 150, military (dumbbell) 10 x 50, 10 x 45 (standing) 10 x 90 machine, rows: 3 sets of 10 x 110 machine, rope skips:55, 86. 4 mile walk; yoga later that night.
today: 6 mile walk, 4.2 segment in 53:41 (27:09, 26:32) Had a hard time getting going.

September 15, 2017 Posted by | college football, football, walking, weight training | | Leave a comment

Illinois smothers sloppy Western Kentucky

Yes, I did get a 16 mile walk first; 5.1 mile course (Bradley Park) plus a 10.05 (to the River plus goose loop) plus a bit more than 1. It was 4:11 or thereabouts.

And this morning, I got in a 4.2 walk, untimed.

Now about the game

The short: the Illini were 7.5 point underdogs and ended up winning 20-7, winning total yards 300 to 244; WKU was held to 6 rushing yards.

The defense could not have played much better. The line got 2 sacks (and a big strip sack), multiple hurries (including forcing a pick-6) and drew multiple “offensive holding” penalties. The linebackers and defensive backs tackled very well in the open field; WKU had few “yards after catch”. WKU had one modest drive end up dying “on downs” while in field goal range (1’st quarter) and one drive assisted by a questionable (IMHO) “targeting penalty” and one late hit (IMHO, justified penalty call) that ended with the big strip sack.

WKU’s only TD came in the 4’th when they got the ball at the Illni 29 after an interception.

The caveat: WKU did not appear to be well coached; they dropped multiple passes (even early in the game), had trouble lining up in the correct spot; were downright confused at times. They also had an “unexpected snap”; they reminded me of a team doing a preseason scrimmage, not of a team playing its second game.

WKU also had two punts travel less than 30 yards.

The Illini offense: not great. The first field goal was set up by field position following short punts (2x yards each) on WKU’s first two possessions. There was a decent 2’nd quarter drive for a field goal and the first drive of the second half WAS impressive; that made it 20-0. That drive took almost 7 minutes.

BUT: the illini figured out that WKU’s only chance would be for the Illini to turn it over, hence they played it very close to the vest, especially in the second half. That was the right strategy, for THIS game.

September 10, 2017 Posted by | college football, football, walking | | Leave a comment

Chiefs win regular season finale, Illini squeak by Ball State in football opener

So, this was a game of ends (of regular season, though the Chiefs have a playoff game next week) and beginnings (the Illini who will probably not go bowling this year)

Before I forget, I did start today with a 4 mile run in West Peoria (out and back); didn’t time but it was just under 12 minutes per mile. Ugh.

Baseball

It was a tight 1-1 pitcher’s duel up until the bottom of the 6’th (when Quad Cities put in a relief pitcher) Peoria had runners at 2’nd and 3’rd with one out when the next batter struck out. But then came a double, 2 singles and a walk which lead to 5 runs. Then Peoria added a home run in the bottom of the 8’th to lead 7-1 going into the 9’th. The second Peoria relief pitcher took over and gave up a walk, single, walk, wild pitch, double to get Quad Cities 3 runs to close to 7-4, but the 3’rd relief pitcher got the 3’rd out.

Peoria plays Quad Cities next week in the playoffs; QC has the best record in the league.

Football

Perfect day. The Illini were outgained 375-216 in yards (171 rush, 204 pass) and gave up drives of 80, 77, and 75 yards. But a miscue (fumble after a completed pass), punt return (4’th quarter) and a key sack with under 1 minute to go helped Illinois pull it out 24-21.

The first Illini drive went no where but on BSU’s first possession, they fumbled after a completed pass and the Illini ran the fumble to the 16 where the Illini hit their star wide receiver over the middle for a touchdown. A fancy 2 point conversion failed.

Ball State promptly drove it 80 yards to take a 7-6 lead.

But in the second quarter, it appeared that the Illini were taking control; two long drives lead to a field goal and touchdown and a 16-7 lead at the half.

Then came the third quarter, where the Illini did nothing and Ball state had drives of 70 and 77 yards. It was now 21-16 going into the 4’th quarter.

The Illini did nothing with an interception that was returned to the 30 and they missed a field goal with just over 5 minutes to play.

But late in the game the defense forced a punt and the star wide receiver returned it 52 yards to set up the winning touchdown drive (with 2 point conversion)

Still 2 minutes remained and Ball State drove it to the 33, when the Illini defense made a big sack. BSU got some of the yardage back but had to settle for a 54 yard field goal attempt with 5 seconds to go..the low kick was blocked. (though the refs missed a roughing penalty as the person who blocked the kick did not hit the kicker; it was another player).

The good news: great game between evenly matched teams. Bad news: Ball state won 4 games last year and are toward the bottom of the MAC.

The plays of the game for me were the punt return and the big sack.

Good crowd for the final Chiefs regular season home game.

We had to dress warmer than normal.

Love this fan’s shirt.

Football the next day.

Ball State on a drive.

Half time: high school bands with the Illini band.

September 2, 2017 Posted by | baseball, college football, football, running | , | Leave a comment

Pre-packing entertainment: college football memories

Oh yeah, I am painfully aware of the fiasco in the Senate. I’ve had some things to say and I am getting way more responses on Twitter than I am used to.

My political account is here:

Now if I could remove just ONE politician from office (by edict) : well, it would be Trump since he is unstable and has the nuclear codes. But if he were a stable person (and just did stuff that I didn’t like politically), then I’d remove McConnell, as he has quite a bit of political skill.

Now for the post Since I am talking about disasters and dumpster fires and NOT talking about my own footraces, that means Illinois football.
I’ve had season tickets for 6 years (and I did see them a couple of times in person..one was a 51-3 loss to USC in the 1990s)

I also went to 4 years of Navy games (and caught a couple of road games) and 9 years of University of Texas games.

Now Navy and Texas were much more successful, overall, than Illinois. In the 6 years I’ve had season tickets, 7-6 and 6-7 were the BEST records.

So riddle me this: (aside from the singular 51-3 loss I talked about): who got beat the worst at home among Texas, Navy and Illinois? (for a true home game, not a “road home game”)

That’s right: TEXAS.

I am not counting the 46-3 loss in the Cotton Bowl to a strong Miami team.

The 1988 Texas team got annihilated 66-15 at home by Houston (quarterbacked by future Heisman trophy winner Andre Ware) and the 1989 team got smeared 50-7 by Baylor. And there was the 1976 team that got drummed 30-0 by Houston at home and 27-3 by Texas A&M.

Navy: while I did see Navy get stomped 33-0 by Notre Dame in 1980, that was in Giants stadium in New Jersey..same with the 35-0 pounding by Houston. But at home, the worst loss was 30-14 to Syracuse (who had future NFL greats Art Monk and Joe Morris).

But Illinos: in the 6 years that I watched them at home, well, they lost a lot of games but, as a rule, they never lost by 30 points or more at home the way that Texas did.

2011: 31-14 to Michigan (17 points). 2012: 52-24 to La. Teach (ok, it was up to 52-17 when La. Tech let up), 35-7 to Penn State , 2013: 56-32 to Wisconsin and 60-35 to Ohio State, 2014: 30-14 to Iowa, 2015: 28-3 to Ohio State. 2016: 40-17 to Minnesota (misleading), 34-10 to Western Michigan, 48-23 to North Carolina, 28-0 to Iowa (ok, 4 losses by 20+ points is a lot).

But nothing as bad as what I saw with Texas; no 30+ point losses at home. The biggest spread was 28 points.

Weird, huh?

July 26, 2017 Posted by | college football, football, politics, politics/social | , , | Leave a comment

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