Oct 29, 2016; Champaign, IL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini quarterback Jeff George Jr. (3) is chased by Minnesota Golden Gophers linebacker Nick Rallis (56) and defensive lineman Steven Richardson (96)during the 4th quarter at Memorial Stadium. Minnesota beat Illinois 40 to 17. Mandatory Credit: Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports
Article continues below ...
The Illinois Football team had an embarrassing 40-17 loss to the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Saturday.
This was actually a game heading into the fourth quarter but bad mistakes led to their doom.
Here are three things I noticed in this loss.
Illinois Needs a Quarterback
When I wanted to see the backups behind Wes Lunt play it was because there could have been some promise hiding on the bench.
While that promise still needs some time, it is becoming clearer and clearer that Illinois needs a quarterback in the future.
Also, when I say, quarterback, I don’t mean someone who can just pass. I want a playmaking quarterback that can keep the defense on their heels.
I really like Jeff George, Wes Lunt and Chayce Crouch. I really do. But, we can be honest about the assessment of the quarterback situation at Illinois.
Unless something changes dramatically with these quarterbacks, then I think in the class of 2017 we could be looking at next season’s starter.
All three Illinois quarterbacks have combined for 1,340 yards passing. This would rank No. 80 on the NCAA individual passing yards leaderboard among quarterbacks.
That statistic is embarrassing. Illinois needs to fix this and the game against Minnesota was the final nail in the coffin for me.
The potential starter for the Illini next season could be quarterback, Cam Thomas. He is coming in the class of 2017.
Thomas has decent size standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing 174-pounds. He is also blazing quick as well. He reminds me a lot of Robert Griffin III when he was coming out of high school.
Hopefully, Illinois can get somewhere near what Griffin was out of Thomas. Illinois will rise again, but it will likely have to be with a different quarterback.
Oct 15, 2016; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights running back Robert Martin (7) rushes for a first down in front of Illinois Fighting Illini linebacker Julian Jones (2) during the first half at High Points Solutions Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Run the Ball!
Over pretty much this entire season I have been preaching that the Illinois football team should run the ball more.
I want the Illini to run more for two reasons.
The first reason is because Illinois has a nice stable of running backs. I like all three of them and they all bring something different to the table.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn is a bigger, stereo-typical, running back that has solid speed and power. Kendrick Foster is more of your stocky power running back. And Reggie Corbin is your speedster.
All three have special talents that I want to see displayed more.
The other reason Illinois should run more is because they don’t have a great quarterback.
To help the young, inexperienced, quarterbacks the coaching staff needs to take pressure off of them. This can be done by running the ball.
In this last game against Minnesota, the Golden Gophers passed the ball 19 times and ran the ball with their trio of running backs 36 times.
This is about the right ratio that Illinois should be putting out there every weekend. But, against Minnesota, the Illini threw the ball 34 times and ran the ball 28 times.
Illinois needs to run the ball more to help the quarterback and to utilize the best players they have, which are the running backs.
Oct 29, 2016; Champaign, IL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini quarterback Jeff George Jr. (3) is sacked for a safety by Minnesota Golden Gophers defensive lineman Merrick Jackson (93) during the 4th quarter at Memorial Stadium. Minnesota beat Illinois 40 to 17. Mandatory Credit: Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports
I remember back a few Super Bowls ago; the Seattle Seahawks trounced Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
In this Super Bowl, the first drive for Denver was a disaster. The snap flew over Manning’s head and went through the end zone for a safety.
When a team has something bad happen that early it tends to snowball into more bad things throughout the game.
This is what happened to Illinois against Minnesota. The first drive for the Illini was a fumble by George, which enabled the Golden Gophers to have a 9-yard touchdown drive.
Getting off to that bad of a start because of a careless mistake really sets the tone for the rest of the game.
And then there was a safety and a fumble in the fourth quarter by the Illini that sealed the game.
These careless mistakes kill teams that are really good, like the Broncos. But, teams like Illinois, they absolutely finish them off.