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

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(5) comments

PA Chief

For Illinois football, the glimmer of hope continues to grow. The feeling of complete and utter hopelessness created by last year’s performance, for the time being, has begun to subside.
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I think Bill Cubit knows what he is doing. I’m not so sure about Tim Banks. It is not out of the realm of possibility that Illinois will be looking for both an offensive coordinator and a defensive coordinator next year. I am beginning to fear that Cubit will be a mid major head coach next year. He really knows how to operate with lesser talent. Someone is going to give him another chance. And if the defense does not show more progress by the end of the year, and losses pile up, Banks may find himself out of a job.

Basketball Jones
Basketball Jones

What I want to know is, why wasn't Cubit given the head coaching job instead of Beckman in the first place? Maybe then we wouldn't be worried so much about losing him. When you hear him speak, he sounds happy to be here and with the job he has. Let's hope the coach's stay here for awhile, so we can build some stability. Banks does not have a lot of expirenced talent on defense. The defensive line is playing better then I thought they would, but the lack of depth there starts to show as the game gets in the late 3rd quarter and the 4th, along with the young secondary.

Red in a blue state

On thing we have going with Cubit is that he has already been the head coach of Western Michigan for eight years and was fired. Another is his age (mid- fifties). If he's comfortable and happy here and his wife likes it here which I understand is this case at this point, maybe he'll settle in for a while. Besides at his age and I can relate to this he may well not be looking for any big head coaching headaches at this point. Also he's getting shown a lot of love just like Koenning. I'd say if things keep going like they are Cubit will get an extension at the end of the season with a healthy pay increase.

I'm not ready to give up on Banks yet no more than I was Beckman. I'm not sure what Keonning could have done with this very young group. But there is something I like about these guys they're not quitters. They're opportunists. Forcing those two fumbles in the first half was something they have obviously worked on. That's coaching. I firmly believe coaching has shown more so far this season than what we seen all of last year by a long shot.

My main concern is recruiting. Any kind of improvement and momentum can't be sustained without talent. Frankly I'm not seeing that yet. We have to give players a reason to come here, so far this season is a step in the right direction. I think 6 wins and a bowl game are achievable.

PA Chief

Red in Blue – I’m not giving up on Banks either but I am concerned. Last year he had experienced players but no buy in. This year he has buy in but not a lot of experienced players. What will the excuse be next year if the performance does not show significant progress?
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As far as Cubit staying, I think it depends on a few key factors. 1) Obviously, an offer must be made. 2) In his mid fifties and with his clock ticking, how badly does he want another head coaching gig? 3) How comfortable does Cubit feel in hitching himself to Tim Beckman’s wagon?

Red in a blue state

Buying in, good point PA Chief. If Banks had been with last years seniors much earlier in their developing careers there may well have been more of a buy in. Those guys had been developed by another coach they loved and respected. Then the coaching change came along.

I sense a buy in too this season on both sides of the ball including the special teams that was not there last season which is a big part of the progress we long time football fans are hoping for.

The offense and special teams( both have brought excitement back to Illinois football) are going to carry the team this season, the young defense will come I believe.

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