blueollie

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.

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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

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:
comeondefenseiowa

seniordayiowa

illinoiscampusiowa

illinibandiowa

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

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.

ilmsu1

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:

illinimsuwin

Game action:

ilmsu2

Cubs tribute at halftime:

ilmsucubstribute

Taking the field:

ilmsuentering

Fall colors on campus:

ilmsufallcolors

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)

Safety

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.

minnesotaillinoisquarterbacksack

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.

illinoisminnesotagame

minnesotaillinois20161

minnesotaillinois20162

Highlights:

Neutral

Minnesota

Illinois

October 30, 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.

purdueil2016postgame

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.

purdueil20161

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.

purdueil20162

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.

purdueil20163

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

Highlight videos (and there a lot of them)

My photos:

purdueil2016lastminute

Last minute action.

purdueil2016winningkick

The winning kick.

purdueil2016studentsection

Student section.

purdueil2016pregamefightsong

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

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

Fall Break 2016….

twolowerloopscourse

Workout: easy 5.3 mile walk in 1:22 (15:16 pace for the dark, hilly course). I’ve come to accept the fact that I am no longer a fast walker. For me, 15:xx is now a “deliberate” pace, the way that 13:xx once was.

But I can still walk, and I enjoyed seeing the bunnies and dark squirrels (some are labrador black). And it is fall break and I’ve got a football game tomorrow (Illinois vs. Purdue).

Note: over the last 4 meetings, the visiting team has won each time. The last time Purdue was here…well watch from 7:30 to 10:30, IF you have a strong stomach.

Still, the Illini are favored by 11 and should be able to win..but I said that 2 years ago.

October 7, 2016 Posted by | college football, football, walking | | Leave a comment