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Iowa 63 Illinois 0. A historically bad ending to a historically bad season.

This was before the last play from scrimmage of yesterday’s debacle. It says it all.

Oh, total yards, while lopsided, weren’t what you’d expect of a 63-0 disaster: they favored Iowa by 400-220. And yes, I expected Iowa to win:

Iowa at Illinois (I’ll be there, all bundled up) Iowa -16, ESPN 89.5 percent)

1. Illinois run game is their strong suit; Iowa has the no. 6 run defense. Only time Illini faced a top 40 run defense (Purdue), the run game got stuffed.

2. Common opponents: Illini did slightly better vs. Minnesota (55-31 vs.48-31), all other common match ups favor the Hawkeyes (e. g. 23-0 win vs. Maryland vs. 63-33 loss by the Illini ). The last 3 Iowa losses have been extremely close.

I think that the Illini get stomped something like 31-7.

I expected the Hawkeyes to win by something between 24-28 points. I did NOT expect 63. This game ended up like FCS vs. Alabama bad…oh wait..that game was more competitive than this one.

Seriously, I know that Iowa has a more developed program as well as better players; they are a solid, “top 30/Outback Bowl” caliber team. But Illinois should be more competitive than this. Note: I was impressed at how well Iowa tackles; they are the best team I’ve seen this year at that.

The game…played in mid to high 30’s and somewhat damp conditions, started out well enough. Second play from scrimmage: a poorly thrown pass bounced off the receiver’s hands, went straight up in the air…and was intercepted by the Illini! But the Illini promptly lost 3 yards on their first possession, thereby turning it over on downs. Iowa had a mini drive followed by a pooch punt (off of a faked “go for it on 4’th down” play) with pinned the Illini on their 2. A punt lead to a short field (Illini 39) and their first of 9 touchdowns.

Then came an exchange of punts which lead to the Hawkeyes getting the ball on their own 42. Then came the next touchdown drive. It was no 14-0 in the 2’nd …and disaster was about to strike.

Next Illinois possession: fumble on the first play…fumble returned for a touchdown. Next series: 4’th and 1: Illini punt and it gets blocked and returned to the Illini 11. 1 play to score a touchdown. It is now 28-0 with 11 minutes left in the 2’nd. Illini make one first down..have to punt and this time Iowa has to drive 83 yards for their touchdown (passing). It is 35-0 and a couple of possessions later, the half mercifully ends.

Second half: empty stadium (essentially ..not that it was at all crowded to begin with. Illini possession ends in a punt..returned for a touchdown. Next possession: interception returned to the Illini 20. Touchdown. It is now 49-0.

Eventually the quarter ends and Iowa puts in a back up offensive line and quarterback. The still get touchdown drives of 60 and 51 yards.

This game really symbolized Illinois football in the Big Ten: every single game was a blowout, though 2 went the way of the Illini. Take a look:

Penn State: 63-24 loss
Rutgers: 38-17 win
Purdue: 46-7 loss
Wisconsin: 49-20 loss
Maryland: 63-33 loss
Minnesota: 55-31 win
Nebraska 54-35 loss
Iowa: 63-0 loss.

I’ve never seen a conference season so devoid of close games. Home Big Ten games: win of 24 points; losses of 39, 39, 63 points. I wonder why the variation has been this great.

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35 minutes until kick off. Iowa at Illinois.

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Senior day.

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Not a huge crowd. Putrid play on offense.

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No bueno.

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Upper deck: empty.

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Yellow box: where I sit. Yes, I am in the above photo.

More about college football Navy won and covered (as expected), ND won (as I expected) but won more impressively than I had anticipated; maybe they are as “good as advertised” this year? Texas had an impressive win against a tough Iowa State team (ok, Iowa held them to 3 points). So this week I went 3-1 straight up, and 2-2 vs. the spread.

Workout notes I got in 7.5 miles of running, including 5.5 with the lovely Cassie. That was so much fun; I hope we do it again. I did have TMI incident midway..not sure what was going on as this rarely happens to me.

But the run and pace felt good.

5 mile walk in 1:01 this morning.

November 18, 2018 Posted by | college football, Friends, running, walking | | Leave a comment

Illini roll to 55-31 victory over Gophers

Since I started to follow the team closely (as in: “go to the games” closely) the Illini haven’t won many Big Ten home games. And those they did win tended to be close: 2011: 3 points over NW, 2014: 4 over MN, 2 over Penn State, 2015: 1 over Nebraska (the 48-14 win was AT Purdue), 2016: 4 over Michigan State.

Saturday, they won by 24 over Minnesota, the largest margin of victory in a home Big Ten game since October 30, 2010 (vs. Purdue).

How they did it: HUGE plays: TD runs of 72, 72, 77 yards, pass of 67 and 30 yards, and big chunks on the other plays to set up shorter touchdowns Total: 646 yards of offense; enough to get the Minnesota defensive coordinator fired.

But interestingly enough, it was only 24-17 at the half. The Illini defense really shut down the Gophers in the second half until two late “garbage time” touchdown passes forged the final score a bit; by then it was 48-17. The Illinois offense had more chances to strike with their big plays.

Illinois struck quickly scoring on their first long run on the second play from scrimmage. Minnesota replied with a long drive on the ground to tie the score. The Illini added a field goal and another long touchdown before the Gophers added their second long touchdown drive to cut it to 17-14. Then came another Illini drive… then a key sequence of events toward the end of the half.

The Gophers had one seemingly final drive end on downs as the Illini defense stiffened in “4 down” territory. But the Illini threw and interception and the Gophers drove (and had an apparent fumble overturned upon review) and kicked a field goal just prior to the half.

The Illini put the game away in the 3’rd quarter. The defense got a stop; the offense got a long touchdown run to go up 31-17. The defense forced a fumble and the Illini offense converted to go up 38-17. Another stop, and another Illini touchdown drive to make it 45-17. A fumble lead to an Illini field goal at the 48-17 lead..at which time the teams exchanged garbage time touchdowns.

This is the best I’ve seen them look since 2014 when they beat a decent Minnesota team and Penn State team at home. Yes, those were close games, but the opponents were much better teams than this year’s Minnesota team.

Tracy went with me and I enjoyed her company greatly.

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Go Illini! Hosting Minnesota.

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More: as we walked to the stadium, we saw the band.

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We got there in time to see the band march by.

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Game action:

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Game action.

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Illini driving! 17-7 over Gophers.

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Though the sides were reasonably well filled (not the parts under the overhang) the upper deck was very sparsely populated.

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Halftime. I normally do not get this view.

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I was stunned:

And the team took a well deserved bow:

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Victory!

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I can say that I did NOT see this coming.

November 5, 2018 Posted by | college football, football | | Leave a comment

Grim football day but otherwise…

First things first: yesterday I drove Barbara to the airport for her to start her “slightly longer than 2 week” trip to the Middle East. I have 3 “bachelor weekends” and will probably catch at least 2 football games in those weekends and maybe a 4 mile race. There is an outside chance that I get a 3’rd game. I also had dinner with Tracy at Jerusalem Restaurant; it was fun watching her speak Hebrew with the owner.

And I had a decent run in cool weather; only 4.5 miles but it included a 1.4 mile warm up and 2.5 miles as follows: 11:17/11:11 22:29 (50 seconds slower than in 2016) This was “two loops of lower Bradley Park. I’d like to get this under 21 minutes; I’ll probably need to lose more weight to reach that goal. I am now at 191-193 lbs. and while that wasn’t a bad weight for me, say, 20-30 years ago, I no longer have as much muscle mass. I really should aim for the high 170’s.

College football I had predicted wins for Maryland, Notre Dame and Texas, though I had a bad feeling about the Texas game. Perhaps I should have honored that feeling? But the ESPN computer rated the game as a toss up and, on paper, UT appeared to have the better team. It WAS close but OSU hung on so I went 2-1 straight up.

Spread: stupidly, I changed my mind and picked the Illini to cover, based on Maryland’s offensive numbers. The only thing offensive was the Illini defense…63 points and 712 total yards to a team that got shut out and had 115 yards of total offense the week before! (ok, they were playing at Iowa). I went 0-3 vs. the spread this week. Last week I went 2-0 straight up, and 1-1 vs. the spread (damned Illini).

Season: 23-8 straight up, 13-16-1 vs. the spread..many of those losses were the Illini not covering (+18 MD, +25 WI, +10 Purdue). Even the line doesn’t recognize how terrible the Illini have become. Evidently I haven’t accepted it either.

Now about yesterday’s action: I caught the Illinois State game: they hosted South Dakota State. The computer showed most of the section (where I sat) as being full, but my guess is that they saved some for same day sales. Throughout the same there were 5 people in a row that sat 20 people. Still, there WAS a good crowd for “family day” (though many were NOT football fans) and both teams were top 10 in the FCS. And the action started quickly; the Jackrabbits scored in just over a minute via a 68 yard pass off of play action (defender bit on the run). Opening play: Redbirds hit an 81 yard TD pass off of a crossing route and with just over 1:30 gone it was 7-7.

The defenses controlled things for most of the rest of the half, though SDSU reached inside the 5 only to be thwarted via a 3’d down interception (one of the few bad passes their impressive QB threw all day).

But then came the unfortunate finish to the first half: there were just 5 minutes to go and a Jackrabbit punt had pinned the Redbirds at their own 11. They tried a swing pass and the receiver tried to circle back into the backfield as it was well covered. He fumbled and the Jackrabbits recovered inside the 5. They punched it in.

Next series the Redbirds fumbled the t-formation snap (under center) and the Jackrabbits cashed in, again. It was now 21-7 and the Jackrabbits forced a punt and used their time outs. Then they nailed a long bomb touchdown pass in which the defender, in single coverage, fell down (and injured his shoulder in the process). It was now 28-7 and a last second ISU drive ended in a missed field goal (to prove large later)

In the second half, ISU switched quarterbacks which appeared to help some (and they started to run more), but not right away. ISU threw an interception, exchanged punts, then a drive off a short field put SDSU up 35-7 well into the 3’rd quarter. ISU was to outscore SDSU 21-3 the rest of the way to lose 38-28 but, to be fair, two of the final touchdowns appeared to be “garbage time” touchdowns.

ISU ended up outgaining SDSU 445-390 but could not overcome that disastrous final 5 minutes of the first half. The Jackrabbits were very impressive.

My photos:

Band:

We had an Army helicopter fly-over (NOT my photo)

Seats they claimed that mine was the only one left in my section (when I bought them). Doesn’t appear that way, does it?

Action: (here is the first ISU fumble and SDSU about to cash in)

Later: SDSU fans still there though.

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Teams trade TDs. 35-14 Jackrabbits with 11:50 to go.

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On the way home, I got to listen to Illinois getting CREAMED by Maryland; I caught most of the second half on TV prior to picking up Tracy. It was 56-19 before the Illini got a couple of garbage time touchdowns..and gave up one too. Final: 63-33 Maryland. The Illini gave up 63 points and 712 yards of offense to a team that got 0 points with 115 yards of TOTAL offense against Iowa the week before.

Sorry, though the Illini have 3 wins this year after only 2 last year, one of those wins was due to playing an absolutely dreadful Rutgers team who has regressed from last year. In Big Ten play, aside from the 38-17 win over Rutgers, the Illini have lost 63-24, 46-7, 49-20 and 63-33. Last year, aside from the finishing 42-7 loss to Northwestern, the Illini were more competitive than that. I wonder if Coach Smith knows how to reach college players. I STILL think he was a good NFL coach, but coaching up elite, mature athletes is different than coaching up 2-3 star college kids.

I think that too many Illini fans, myself included, put too much stock in a close loss to USF (which is a good but not great “group of 5” team). I was NOT one of those who was impressed that the Illini lead Penn State 24-21 with 10 minutes to go in the 3’rd..I could NOT discount Penn State’s 42-0 finish (my wife warned me that the finish better reflected reality than the start).


October 28, 2018 Posted by | college football, football, Friends, running | , | Leave a comment

Football and Volleyball thoughts

Last night: I saw Bradley Volleyball keep their third place position in the Missouri Valley with a 3-1 win over Missouri State.

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Bradley vs. Missouri State. Good crowd.

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They had a nice crowd and some vocal student support.

This morning: after my slow walk, I watched Illinois give up 545 total yards (357 on the ground) while being limited 300 yards to Wisconsin in 49-20 loss. There was one bright spot however:

That was 80 of the yards that the good guys had.

Of interest were two things:

1. The quarterback. The Illini have a 5’th year senior transfer who is a decent runner and does a decent job on the read option. Then they have a freshman who doesn’t run as well but is a better passer, and the Illini also have 3 credible, Big Ten caliber running backs (good ground attack in every game but the Purdue game, including 210 yards today). Should the Illini promote the freshman to the starting role? I am not saying that the freshman is a better quarterback but he might give this particular team a better chance to win right now.

2. In the 3’rd, the Illini were down 42-17 early in the 4’th and had 4’th and 3 at the Wisconsin 8. The coach elected a field goal (which was good). Some (many? most?) thought the Illini should have went for the first down. Personally, I think the offense needed to be rewarded with points..as a confidence builder. Not that it would have mattered that much.

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HOUSED! 8️⃣0️⃣ Yards. #ILLINI

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Workout notes: Friday: untimed 5 mile walk. Saturday: 10 mile walk..unusually slow. I walked to the ball field and then to the dam and then back; perhaps I went a bit further than I had anticipated. But it was slow.

October 20, 2018 Posted by | college football, football, walking | , | Leave a comment

Still recovering

Yes, I have friends that can do a hell of a lot more running and walking than I can. But over the past few weeks:

23 September: walking marathon
29 September: 5K running race
6 October: 5K running race
7 October: half marathon walk (all out)

And that has left me a bit heavy legged. Even today, my 10 mile walk, while mostly pleasant, was work. Not hard work, but a modest amount of work and my legs got moderately heavy. That should not be after only 10 miles..hence I am still “recovering”>

College football:
My predictions:

Last week I picked ND, Texas, Purdue and Temple to win (4-0), ND, Illinois, Baylor and Temple to cover 1-2-1
So for the season: 19-7 straight up, 12-12-1 against the spread.

Now what about Illinois?

Ugh..that was embarrassing, and this post, more or less, describes what I am feeling.

Spin it any way you want. But the last 3 Big Ten home games ended: 42-7 (Northwestern), 63-24 (Penn State), 46-7 (Purdue)

This season, the defense gave up:

453 yards and 24 points to Kent State (1-6 Mac Team)
361 yards to 2-4 Western Illinois (FCS team that Illinois State beat 33-16)
626 yards to USF (ok, they are 6-0 but non power 5)
591 yards to Penn State (ok, they are good)
386 yards to Rutgers (1-6, horrible team that lost 42-13 to Buffalo and 55-14 to Kansas)
611 yards to Purdue (3-3) including 404 in the FIRST HALF.

And while the team had ran the ball well up to this game, Purdue loaded the box with 8 defenders and dared the Illini to throw. Then blitz on passing downs. Our offense has been well scouted and other teams now know what to do.

And our depth is shallow..this is a bad thing when you play in the Big Ten meat grinder. This may well get uglier.

Oh well…I am not sure if there IS an exit from this quicksand.

October 15, 2018 Posted by | college football, walking | | Leave a comment

Illini get steamrolled by Purdue 46-7

I’ll start with the positive (and yes, there is a positive). In Champaign, the Illinois AD leads a 4 mile pregame run.

Ok, I don’t live in Champaign and even if I did, a 9 minute a mile is now a “race effort” for me ..on a good day…when it is cool. But I did a nice 5.2 mile walk at an undetermined pace (15-16 minutes per mile?) on my own prior to leaving for the game.

Ok, here is the second positive: I still love watching football and I like seeing good execution. And one team executed well..though it wasn’t the team that I was cheering for.

Ok, positive number 3: I had a good lunch with my wife before I left.

Ok, positive number 4: decent crowd (by Illinois standards: almost 42K. That was the largest since last year’s Wisconsin game (which was also Homecoming). Ok, much of that came from Purdue fans and much of the Illinois crowd left at halftime, after the band performance.

Ok, positive number 5: the bands (current and alumni) were good!

Ok, ok, with that out of the way….

I’ll recall a conversation from the Penn State game a few weeks ago (which ended 63-24). Many Illini fans grasped the fact that the Illini held a lead 24-21 with 10 minutes to go in the 3’rd. Others (myself included) thought that the 42-0 finish by Penn State was more significant. I asked my wife: what is more significant about the Illinois football team: the start of the PSU game or the finish. She smiled and said “honey, the finish”.

It sure seems that she was right.

Ok, enough wit the set up.

What about the actual game? The score (46-7) and stats (total yards 611-250…Purdue had 404 yards AT THE HALF!) speak for themselves.

But…believe it or not, it started promising. The teams started by exchanging punts, then the Illini struck blood first with a very nice 77 yard touchdown drive, with most of the damage done by a 52 yard pass to a running back out of the backfield. It WAS a good throw too. 7-0 Illini, and I thought “the shoot out is on!” (I had predicted 31-24 Purdue).

It took Purdue just 5 plays to respond, almost all on passes…7-7.

Then came 2 Illinois 3 and out “drives” followed by Purdue touchdown drives (passes) and a blocked extra point: 20-7 Purdue.

Then came a “turning point” of sorts (ok, in a 46-7 game..well..)

The Illini put together their second (and final) good drive of the day, mostly due to a 30 and 24 yard pass play. First and goal at the Purdue 8 then a second goal at the Purdue 5. But then came a SIXTEEN YARD loss on a sack followed by a missed field goal attempt (38 yards; kicker has been pretty good for most of the year). That appeared to take whatever wind there was out of Illinois’ sails.

Then came a Purdue drive with a made field goal. Illinois punted..and with time running down, the Illini held Purdue on downs at the Illini 29. But Purdue had time outs and got the ball back with under a minute to go and 2 time outs. Two quick runs set up the ball at the Illini 42 and a “jump ball” in the end zone was won by the Purdue receiver. A very badly botched extra point kick attempt left the score at 29-7…and Purdue had 404 yards AT THE HALF.

Purdue got the ball at the start of the 3’rd quarter and two key penalties snuffed out any hope the Illini may have had.

An offside on a Purdue punt kept the drive alive…and another offside penalty negated an interception deep in Illini territory. No problem: PUrdue punches it in and it is now 36-7.

Purude did a lot of running in the 4’th quarter at it was good enough to set up a field goal then a final touchdown to make it 46-7.

It was this kind of day:

My shots:

Ok, not mine..but I am where the red arrow is.

Pregame:

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Alumni Band.

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Illini Band.

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Decent crowd but far from full:

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Purdue at Illinois early.

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Was it something I said? 😂

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Decent crowd.

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Good half time show:

Post halftime…people leaving:

OMG…

October 14, 2018 Posted by | college football, football, walking | | Leave a comment

A bit of college football

I drug Mat to a game where Illinois State hosted Western Illinois. And this game sort of reminded me of the Western Illinois at Illinois game. In the Champaign game, Western drove for a touchdown on their opening drive. The Illini took a 14-7 lead at the half and then lead 24-7 off of turnovers and a blocked punt. But it was 24-14 with Western driving into the 4’th quarter and ended 34-14. Total yards: 376 to 361, Illini.

The Illinois State vs. Western game: ended 33-16; here Western lead 13-12 at the half and 16-12 going into the 4’th..when ISU took it over, thanks to good field position and a pick 6.

Total yards: Western won that 277-270 though Illinois State had the edge in yards at the half.

Opening drive: Western touchdown (much of the damage by passing) but ISU blocked the PAT and ran it back for a 2 pointer. Then 2 nice drives lead to a touchdown and field goal to put ISU up 12-6. BUT…a great punt return set up WIU with a short field and then “bam/bam”..a touchdown pass right before half time sent WIU into the lead.

Second half: at first the defenses dominated (ISU, WIU, ISU punts). Then on the next drive, WIU hits a 71 yard pass…but a desperation dive by the ISU DB tripped the WIU receiver just enough to where he lost his balance at the ISU 8. A TD was called back on a holding call, so WIU has to kick the field goal to go up 16-12, which was their last score of the day.

4’th: teams exchanged 2 sets of punts; then the ISU ground game gets going and they drive for the go ahead touchdown: 19-16. A pick-6 scores another touchdown: 26-16.

So WIU tries to get back in the game but fails on 4’th and 14 on their own 25; ISU takes over and drives it in, aided by one pass, which lead to the final score of 33-16. Yes, WIU took time outs during that final drive; they weren’t going to give up being down by 10.

Note the clouds moving in.

The weather was nuts: overcast and chilly, warm and sunny, rainy (for 10-15 minutes), warm, chilly again. Perfect Illinois fall weather.

More games:

The Illini beat hapless Rutgers 38-17:

Of course, Rutgers lost to Kansas 55-14 and to Buffalo (a MAC team) at home 42-13. This time, total yards weren’t that far apart 419-386, though the Illini got 330 yards rushing.

I’ll know more after the Purdue game.

Personally, I think that the Illini will win once more this season: 1 game from Minnesota, Purdue, or Nebraska. Northwestern and Maryland (road) will be tough sledding…and IMHO, forget Iowa or Wisconsin.

Navy got trounced by Air Force 35-7. Navy will be lucky to scrape up 2 more wins this season. Just not our year and Army looks great.

ND rolled 45-23 over Virginia Tech; they look as if they have hit their stride and..should be favored in each of their remaining games. That doesn’t mean that they will win them all though.

Texas: wild finish; up 45-24…OU rallies to tie, Texas FG with 9 seconds to go to win. After a loss to Maryland and a scare by Tulsa, UT has defeated 4 quality opponents: USC, TCU, Kansas State (road) and OU. But challenges remain vs. West Virginia, at Oklahoma State, at Texas Tech and the always tough Iowa State.

Predictions: I was 4-0 vs. the spread, and 3-1 straight up (missed the OU game).
Straight up: 15-7, spread: 11-10.

October 7, 2018 Posted by | college football, football | , | Leave a comment

Kool aid drinking (how social media can deceive you)

I know that Illinois football is, well, not that important in the great scheme of things, but I am learning an interesting lesson.

This year I started to interact with Illinois Loyalty, The Champaign Room and Illini Football Breakdown on twitter. And so I started to get the feeling: “there is excitement about Illinois football again; maybe things are turning around!!! And yes, I follow Illinois Football on Instagram (and other social media platforms), etc.

But then..let’s look at some objective reality. Illinois went 2-10 last year, to the surprise of almost no neutral observers.

Attendance at the home games last year vs. this year:

Ball State: 41,923 Kent State: 31,898 (-10025)
W. Kentucky: 43,058 W. Illinois 39,252 (-3806) (both Sat. evening games)
Nebraska 43,058 Penn State: 34,704 (-8324) both Fri. evening games)

Then the Chicago Soldier Field game drew 21,725.

Attendance is DOWN by about 7000 per game! And keep in mind, last year’s Nebraska game was the best attended home game..that included home games against Wisconsin and Northwestern. My guess is that this year, Iowa will be the best attended game; don’t expect much from Purdue or Minnesota.

So, the hard core evidence is that interest in Illinois football as DROPPED quite a bit; the “excitement” or “interest” I might be seeing is that I’ve sought out and found other fanatics.

The interesting reality is that the casual observer may well have a more realistic idea of what is happening than the fanatic who is paying more attention.

Case in point: last week’s game vs. Penn State. The fanatics point to the Illini leading 24-21 in the 3’rd quarter as a sign of where we really are.
In fact, I saw a Penn State team that told itself: “ok, let’s wake up and put these guys away”, at which case they buried the Illini with a 42-0 finish. THAT, IMHO, showed the relative difference in the squads.

And so.. yes, this is just football. But I think the same principle applies to politics and work places…it is very easy to fall into group-think and ignore negative information.
But the difficulty of getting out of your bubble is that, well, it is almost no place to be that is NOT in a bubble. Leaving your bubble to get into another bubble really doesn’t help.

I am trying to remedy that by following the most “non-bubble” people I know; I might compile a list.

September 27, 2018 Posted by | social/political | | Leave a comment

The dam breaks: Penn State deluges Illinois 63-24

Last week, the Illini could not hang on and were outscored 18-0 in the 4’th quarter. This time, they were playing a better team (no. 10 Penn State). And this time, they were outscored 35-0. NOT a misprint. Yes, this did include two scores off of turn-overs and two garbage time touchdowns.

And last week, they gave up 626 yards of offense. This time, it was “only” 591 (387 ground, 204 pass).

BUT with all of this…the Illini were only down 21-17 at the half.

Yes, Penn State was moving the ball easily but Illinois had some drives of their own…and had two turn-overs.

Then in the 3’rd quarter the Illini took the opening drive (ok, and were helped by a roughing the passer call on a 3’rd down stop) and scored to go ahead! 10 minutes into the 3’rd quarter, an Illini team that had been knocked around up and down the field LEAD!

Then came a 42-0 avalanche consisting of long runs, passes, interception returns, etc.

How it went down

Penn State had no trouble driving the ball on its opening drive, but then fumbled deep in Illini territory after a caught pass. No problem; they got the ball back and had a snappy drive.

But the Illini actually have a credible ground game and used it; they tied the game at 7.

Then both teams missed field goals..and Penn State *appeared* to take control with two drives to go up 21-7 in the second.

But the Illini answered with another “play fast and run” drive…at we had a one score game!

With 37 seconds to go Penn State had the ball fairly deep in their own territory but elected to try to pass; it was intercepted! The Illini cashed in with a quick drive and field goal at it was only 21-17 at the half.

Then came the opening drive in the 3’rd quarter that had the (few) fans buzzing (only 34,700 tickets were sold in a 60,000 seat stadium)

Then came the avalanche.

First, Penn State answered with a long drive capped by a 48 yard touchdown run to take the lead for good. Then came another drive that bled into the 4’th quarter and it was now 35-24.

The Illini tried to rally but threw a flukey interception (ball batted upward by a falling receiver). Penn State struck quickly with a touchdown pass and it was now 42-24 and the rout was on.

A final credible attempt ended with a futile long FG attempt on 4’th and 11 (a make would have cut it to 2 touchdowns) and that lead to still another Penn State score (49-24), this time it was a 2 play drive, capped by a 61 yard run by the “other” good back.

Now it really got ugly. Illinois failed on a 4’th down giving Penn State a short field (at their own 46) and they promptly cashed in, with most of the damage coming on a 44 yard pass to the Illini 1 thrown by the backup quarterback. Note: the drive was extended by a blatant personal foul (hitting the receiver after the ball was well, well past him) on 3’rd down.

56-24.

Then came an intercepted pass (thrown by the backup Illinois quarterback) that was run to the Illini 10; Penn State’s backups punched it in to make it 63-24.

Analysis Illinois fans (at least some) are desperately trying to hang on to the fact that the Illini lead in the 3’rd quarter, but I’ve seen that before. Example: in 1993, ND finished no. 2 in the nation. At half time, Navy lead Notre Dame 24-17. ND won 58-27. This was very similar.

What I saw was an Illinois team that has a decent running game, but is physically overmatched. Time again, the Illinois players were were they should be, but the Penn State player was just better.

Highlights and breakdown

Photo album

Breath taking views prior to the game (sunset)

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Another Grange Grove sunset.

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Barbara went with me this time.

Early action

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Underway in the first.

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Still only 7-0.

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Though it was not packed at the beginning,

But at 42-24 it really started to empty:

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42 to 24. Fans fleeing.

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Illinois football is hard on the stomach.

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Staff cleaning up vomit. 49 to 24.

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Fans gone but there was still one Penn State score to go.

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Empty. 56 to 24 3 minutes to go.

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College football notes
I ended up with egg on my face, with regards to predictions.
Navy lost 31-30 to an SMU team who had played a difficult schedule (a strong North Texas team, TCU and Michigan), Illinois failed to cover (though they looked good midway through the 4’th), Texas played well and whipped TCU 31-16, and ND blasted Wake Forrest 56-27. So I was 2-2 straight up, and 0-4 for the spread (11-5 straight up, 6-9 vs. the spread).

September 23, 2018 Posted by | college football, football | | Leave a comment

South Florida vs. Illinois in Chicago: barnburner.

I had made two predictions: 41-20, USF and 41-24. Basically, I expected the South Florida offense to roll over the Illini defense. And in total yards, it WAS 626-380, South Florida (215 rushing, 411 passing). But nevertheless, the Illini lead 16-7 at the half and 19-7 early in the 4’th quarter.

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In. #ILLINI

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Get off me! #ILLINI

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But games are 4 quarters long and in the 4’th, USF decided to go with the deep passing game and that did the trick. Still, they didn’t score the go ahead touchdown (and 2 point conversion) with 2:24 to go and even then, the Illini rallied to get to the 20 yard line and was throwing into the end zone as time expired.

Overall, it was a good effort from Illinois: on offense, the freshman quarterback managed the game well and, aside from one fumble on a hand off, didn’t do anything to get his team beat. The offensive line opened holes and the running backs found found them. (212 rushing yards; one RB over 100 and one just under).

The kicking game was outstanding; 4 times, the punter pinned USF at or inside their 20. The field goal kicker went 4-4, including a 41, 46 and 53 yard fg’s.

Defensively; the pass rush knocked down several passes and forced some motion penalties. Several times, USF drives stalled inside of Illini territory. And the defense got 2 interceptions.

BUT: our quarterback was sacked 5 times, and several times, a 3-4 man rush got to the passer.
And yes, they did have all of those yards; they had no trouble moving the ball..and two missed field goals kept the score down a bit.

I was delighted to see the Illini score on their second possession and take a 7-0 lead. USF answered with a drive of their own..but subsequently, the Illini played great “bend but don’t break” defense and got just enough out of the running game (and got an interception) to set up 3 field goals and a 16-7 halftime lead.

3’rd quarter: a bit like the first two; another field goal (which bounced in) set the Illini up for an exciting finish.

But then USF started to finish their drives; touchdown (set up on busted coverage), field goal to cut the lead to 19-17 and then the very long busted coverage touchdown.

Still the Illini got the ball back and mixed it up well, getting the ball to the 20. But a sack forced the Illini to use their final time out and the final pass was overthrown (well defended).

Still, it was an exciting game.

Socially About visiting Soldier field: do not be fooled by the road that runs right next to the L tracks. That road is a bus short cut; you can not get to Soldier field from there. Walk on Michigan Ave. instead. A nice McCormick employee gave us a ride to the pedestrian bridge.

About where we sat: we were in the United Club 200 section. I do not recommend row 19 seats in the United Club. Why? Most of the sight lines in Soldier field are excellent. But on row 19, there is just a small extra platform lifting your seat above the row in front of you; if someone tall sits there, you will have trouble seeing. Rows 1-18 are fine. Fortunately, we were able to move due to the very sparse crowd (21,700 in a 62,000 seat stadium).

And as far as the United Club: frankly, the 200 level sears are Media Deck seats, PLUS the privilege of being able to go inside. So if you (or your companion) do not value the privilege of being able to go inside during the game ..the Media Deck seats offer the same view for about half of the cost.

Sadly, there weren’t many there. Illinois recent history, plus many other events (Cubs game Saturday and Sunday, plus Northwestern had a game that evening, plus the Bears on Monday night) kept the crowd down to fewer than 22,000.

Highlight videos:

My photos:

We got there in time to make the lunch buffet at the Nepal House.

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Pregame lunch. Already saw some South Florida fans.

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Both sets of fans had events:

USF had some very shiny helmets.

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Shiny helmets II.

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The band:

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Go Illini!

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We were ready:

Early action..and a sparse crowd:

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Sparse crowd though.

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The Illini did move the ball well for the first half:

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Illini in the red zone again!

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Second quarter. 16-7 Illini at the half.

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Shady seats were popular:

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Shaded seats are popular.

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Had the game ended at 57 minutes, I would have been happier:

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25-19 bad guys. 1:44 to go.

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September 16, 2018 Posted by | college football, travel | | Leave a comment