Pentagram: The Ugly-Pretty

AJ Jenkins looks to score

The Illinois football team defeated Arizona State 17-14 on Saturday to go 3-0 and crack the Top 25 for the first time in awhile.  It was an ugly game, marred by penalties and mistakes on both sides, with the defenses dominating for long stretches.  Most people picked this game as a shootout, with someone needing to score 40 to win.  While that didn’t happen, the Illini win has kicked in this little-known concept of momentum, and that result along with the how the schedule could play out make the result pretty enough.

This game broke some streaks for the Orange and Blue, including a long stretch of futility against Top 25 foes (ASU was #22 last week) and the non-conference Top 25.  It’s the first time starting the season three games undefeated in years.  Perhaps most importantly, the Illini came from behind in the 4th quarter to actually win a game at the end.  This simply has not happened the last three years, with the team dropping virtually every close contest in the final frame.

Now it’s time for two more home games in which the Illini will be favored:  MAC opponent Western Michigan this week and Northwestern the week after.  Win those two and how you have yourself some serious momentum – just what the program needs.  Five points in the Pentagram:

  • Defense continues to step up.  Arizona State has and will score a lot of points this season.  They have a good quarterback and good athletes and a coach with a system.  The Illini, meanwhile, have continue to find ways to bring pressure and disrupt.  There were stunts and blitzes from everywhere, and the D simply stuffed the Sun Devil running game.  The secondary contributed mightily, covering late into plays and forcing a couple of sacks.  Coach Vic Koenning and the Zooker deserve a lot of credit for this unit’s improvement.
  • Offense, on the other hand…  Didn’t look so good.  Teams continue to crowd the line on Illinois and try to force a vertical game.  This didn’t stop Leshoure for long last year, but Jason Ford hasn’t really figured it out yet.  Scheelhaase’s poor downfield throws were punished, and he appeared to have tunnel-vision at times when ASU sent their blitzes.  But 17 points was enough – this week.
  • Special Teams need to improve.  The muffed punt by Ryan Lankford could’ve really cost us but didn’t.  He followed that up by not even fielding the next one.  I’m ready to see someone else back there.  On the kickoff after the field goal, the ASU returner split through the coverage and required a saving tackle by kicker Derek Dimke to prevent the TD.  On the other hand, freshman punter Justin Duvernois hit some good ones after a shaky start.
  • JB in the house.  Everyone was talking about Jonathan Brown’s game at linebacker after the game – with good reason.  JB was all over the place, pressuring, harrying, and generally making the Sun Devils take notice.  If he can play like that, and if the other young backers like Houston Bates continue to follow senior Ian Thomas’s lead, the D will continue to play well.
  • Nice crowd, atmosphere.  The uneven performance of the football team in recent years has given the Orange and Blue nation an wait-and-see approach, but the stadium was 95% full on Saturday.  The later start helped, as did the quality of the opponent.  The place was loud at times, even if a bit subdued for long stretches of the 2nd and 3rd.  Winning is just what the football team needs to bring people back.  So go get Western Michigan next week and get ready for Homecoming against Northwestern.

One thought on “Pentagram: The Ugly-Pretty

  1. At half time The Rube told whomever would listen the team seemed to have a different attitude. The Rube HATES all the cliche’s “chip on their shoulder,” “SWAGGER” can’t stand them. However, this team seemed like they were playing like they THOUGHT they should win…they played like the knew they could play with ASU etc. Not sure where that comes from, coaches, Nate other guys, but probably a combination of all of them. It was refreshing to watch an Illinois football team play with confidence etc. What was even more exciting was to see them take a couple punches (especially when they got down on the scoreboarde) and see them not miss a beat and not lose that entire thought process of EXPECTING to win! The Rube will also mention JB played one of the best games at LB we’ve seen in awhile. Nate is tough as nails, Ford is a beast not one time did he go down on first contact I don’t think, is AJ for real? Finally, our Freshman punter isn’t as bad as The Rube thought he might be (He’s still no Shorty Cunningham…but)…actually did VERY well considering he’d punted a total of what 3-4 times this year before this game?!?!?

    Couple things The Rube did take exception to. This game was on the Big 10 network and the schmoes doing the game couldn’t get off the ASU QB’s jock?!?!? It was actually pretty darn embarassing. The guy threw 2 interceptions, got sacked 6 or 7 times and was largely ineffective most of the game despite his yardage etc. Everytime the kid did anything even average these announcers talked like he was the 2nd coming of Tom Brady?!?!? Oh…and I wonder what the over under is on the whole 6’8″ QB really tall guy comments are for this year in ASU games? Think it will pass the Nick Smith tallest Illini BBall player ever or the Tiz 6000 calorie a day diet?!?!?

    Not only that, but to listen to them then tell everyone about the “special” player (#32 I think, but as he didn’t do squat the whole game I’m not 100% sure) ASU had returning kicks and punts who did NOTHING THE ENTIRE GAME was almost as embarassing! All this while only mentioning a few times in passing that AJ was SCORCHING the ASU defense and Ford couldn’t be tackled by less than 3 guys!

    Finally Burfeict….what can one say about that guy. Other than a couple good reactionary stops on Nate he didn’t do much either. The Rube took special care to watch him on almost every play when I re-watched the game Sunday morning. He is one of the dirtiest SOB’s I’ve EVER watched in college football. He was whistled for one unsportsmanlike penalty for ripping someones helmet off. However, take special care to watch that dirty sun devil if you get a chance. He was late pile diving, stepping on hands, going for knees after the play was over, hands to the face, late hit, constant little digs, punches, jabs, kicks, bites etc…honestly wouldn’t surprise me to see him get tossed out of a game this year. Watched one play late in the 3rd qrtr where I believe Ford ran around the right side and was brought down other guys were begining to get up the whistle had blown (I guess couldn’t hear it on TV) and here comes ASU #7 diving onto the pile, I zoomed in and watched him try to reach in and grab the ball from Ford and jab him 2 or 3 times in the chest/gut area real fast. Funny thing was a little later in the 4th qrtr The Ford F350 ran Burfeict over on consecutive plays…this is all just “let go” because he’s an “emotional player!” Seriously, these announcers expect us to give this kid a pass because he has the emotional stability of an 8 year old??? Course the announces still commented how good a player #7 was!

    Last, but certainly not least what was up with the play calling in the 2nd half? Mayhap Nate was a little worse off than anyone not in the lockeroom knew? Whatever it was we stopped all passing for the most part, no options, but made up for that by running Ford until he was about to puke from exhaustion! Plus..The Rube knows that Young fumbled early (it was as much Nates fault for a bad exchange as it was Young’s) and he didn’t hardly see the field after that. As much as The Rube loves to watch Ford RUN people over, he can’t be effective more than 25 carries a game…simply doesn’t have the wind for it. Young will be a special player for the Illini before its all over and could end up being the best #5 we’ve had since Deron Williams (Sorry Mikel and that embarassing Mendenhall jerky), but the staff has to give the kid a chance and a break especially when the error wasn’t his fault to begin with!

    Great game overall and love to see tOSU out of the top 25 when we break in!!!

    GO ILLINI!!!!

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