Apologies for the late blog. For reasons I don’t understand, the blog I wrote late Saturday night from the press box at Soldier Field didn’t post.
Oh, well, hopefully better late than never.
I left Chicago feeling that Illinois had continued to show me they are an improved football team. Despite the 34-24 loss, the Illini achieved one of the pre-game goals I had hoped to see: They brought suspense to the game in the fourth quarter once they closed it to a 7-point margin.
The downside was the defense and, yes, there were a boatload of missed tackles. That has to be addressed. But part of that is the reality of the situation, something we’ve known all along. Illinois is overmatched on defense because they are too young and, compared to a very good Washington offense, not in that skill category.
Part of what we saw Saturday night is what happens when a fast, slippery, deep offense goes against a slower defense.
Offensively, it was a pretty gutsy effort against the 19th-ranked Huskies and their defense that in the season opener had held Boise State to two field goals.
Bill Cubit continues to impress us and keep defenses uneasy with his endless assortment of formations and creative play-calling. He said he’ll just keep dreaming up the plays and he’s motivated in part by how hard his offensive players work and seem committed to getting better.
They really respond to him and there’s a mutual admiration society that has developed between the offensive players and the offensive coaches.
Washington was a genuinely good, experienced football team. The question is: Where would Washington rank in the Big Ten?
It’s possible that Ohio State is the only team that would rate ahead of the Huskies. And on a neutral field, that would be a fun game to watch.
I think the bye game comes at a good time. There are things to work on, including getting more identity to its running game. Someone – Donovonn Young or Josh Ferguson – has to establish himself as someone who can be relied on to consistently pick up 3-to-5 yards. Young just doesn’t seem comfortable yet. I think he’d like to be used more, but he hasn’t given them a reason to do that. And their multiple look passing game is currently the offense’s bread and butter.
I had never covered a game at Soldier Field before. Impressive. Sight lines were good. The crowd seemed into it. And the attendance of 47,312 was very good all things considered.
I believe Illinois gets anihilated in that Washington game one year ago. This year they were able to keep it interesting.
So Illinois is 2-1. Beat Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 28 and they’ll take a 3-1 record into Big Ten play. That’s better