Here Illinois is again, applying metaphors to help assign some sliver of positive meaning to yet another loss.
"We're at the half (point of the schedule)," coach Lovie Smith told reporters Saturday after the Illini's 42-25 loss to No. 16 Michigan at Memorial Stadium in Champaign. "There's disappointment. But we showed in the third quarter we can change things up. We can do that in the second half of the season as well."
Time's a tickin' for that transformation.
Illinois (2-4, 0-3 Big Ten) fell behind 28-0, then scored 25 consecutive points. But that can't cover the fact the Illini lost their sixth straight to a Big Ten opponent and 24th straight to a ranked foe.
"It absolutely was a gut check," Smith told reporters. "We had to decide what we wanted to do. We chose to fight, fight harder."
They'll need that mentality to avoid an embarrassing blowout next week against No. 8 Wisconsin.
Here are three takeaways from the loss.
1. Too little, too late.
The Illini finally seemed to show a sense of urgency, which was lacking this season. Trailing 28-0, first-time starter Matt Robinson (more on him later) hooked up with receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe for a 23-yard touchdown with 55 seconds left in the first half.
Illinois scored three more times unanswered on a 50-yard James McCourt field goal, a 1-yard Robinson touchdown run and running back Dre Brown's 1-yard rushing score. Brown's two-point-conversion run pulled the Illini within 28-25 with 12:50 left in the fourth quarter.
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"There was a big momentum swing there," Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters.
The Illini defense also got its act together -- albeit briefly. The unit made five straight stops, and Jake Hansen and Stanley Greene each forced fumbles. Costly Michigan penalties helped too.
It was a good fight, but the rally fizzled.
2. Did quarterback Matt Robinson do enough to get another look?
Smith revealed shortly before kickoff that quarterback Brandon Peters wouldn't play because he was still feeling the effects of a concussion that knocked him out of last week's game against Minnesota. So much for the storyline of the Michigan transfer facing his former team.
Robinson and freshman Isaiah Williams split time in the first half, with Williams going 0-for-4 passing and not producing a first down on any of his four drives.
Robinson finished 16 of 25 for 192 yards and a touchdown. He was both inspiring -- leading those scoring drives -- and infuriating. As much as he sparked a shot at a comeback, he fumbled on consecutive fourth-quarter drives to seal the Illini's fate.
Peters wasn't exactly a game-changer when healthy, so it will be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Rod Smith chooses to proceed at quarterback against the Badgers.
3. The Illinois defense continued to allow big gains.
Credit the Illini for putting up second-half stops, but allowing 28 points in the first half put them at a massive disadvantage.
Michigan (5-1, 3-1) came in averaging less than 130 rushing yards per game but churned out a season-high 295 yards with three touchdowns Saturday. Hassan Haskins ran for 125 yards and a touchdown, and Zach Charbonnet added 116.
The Illini allowed 40-plus points for the third straight game, and Michigan racked up 489 yards of total offense to Illinois' 256.
"We are doing a good job taking the ball away. That's giving us a spark," Lovie Smith said. "They pulled away late with us turning the ball over."
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