Crashing back to reality: Illini fall to Eastern Michigan 34-31

First things first: I did a 5k training run before leaving for the game. And yes, I”ll miss next week’s Nebraska game due to an event..I had thought I could make it but they moved the game to 7 pm. Pity because I was looking forward to it.

So about that game: I can say that it WAS very entertaining…exciting even though the part I am starting with is not what really told the story.

We’ll start with 11 minutes left in the game and Eastern Michigan leading 31-17 following a “way too easy” 49 yard drive. The Illini put together a decent drive capped by a 28 yard touchdown pass. It is now 31-24 with 7:40 or so to go.

Then Eastern Michigan moves the ball but gets stopped at the Illini 40. They pass up a 57 yard field goal attempt (they hit a 52 yard one earlier) and pin the Illini at their own 7 with 3:09 to go.

3 incomplete passes later the Illini are facing 4’th and 10 at their own 7 with 2 time outs left…they elect to try to get a first down and the Illini wide receiver (who had a great game) makes an excellent catch for 32 yards…the Illini have life. A pass, a quick draw then boom! 36 yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 31 with 1:44 to go!

Yes, this receiver had a great game!

But 1:44 was left and EMU had all 3 time outs. Easy Peasy. They march right down the field with zero signs of panic…get down to the Illini 5, run a play to put it right in the center of the field. Then with 3 seconds left:

Not the prettiest kick from a kicker who…well, hit a 52 yard field goal but also missed an extra point, and the Illini did try to ice him with 2 time outs. And, well, the kick was an ugly line drive that *would have* missed from 10 yards further out. But they weren’t from 10 yards further out.

That that is the rub.

The exciting finish masked the fact that it was 31-17 early in the 4’th quarter, which was because the Eagle offense cut through the Illini defense like hot butter. And the Illini got penalties on offense because, well, they had trouble blocking the EMU defensive linemen. Yes…at times, our O-line was overmatched by a MAC defensive line. At times.

The game started exciting enough; the Illini defense got a 3-out and then the offense moved it just a bit and the Illini kicker nailed a spectacular 57 yard field goal..that kick would have been good from 65.

No problem. EMU got a 47 yard run from the wildcat formation and capped it with a 28 yard touchdown pass to take the lead 7-3.

No problem: Illini get a 52 yard pass and then another one to retake the lead 10-7…starting to look like a track meet.

The teams trade punts but then EMU wins the field position battle. 54 yard TD vs. single coverage. 14-10.

No problem. Illini take 6 plays to drive it 75 yards and it is now 17-14. And we are still in the first quarter!

Finally in the second quarter: the Illini offense starts to sputter and make mistakes. EMU puts together a 70 yard drive but misses the point to go up 20-17 and then get a 52 yard field goal to go up 23-17.

And the third quarter: scoreless; neither team does much. It appeared that EMU was going somewhere with a long completed pass but a hard tackle caused a fumble which the Illini recovered, but they give it right back on a strip sack which almost lead to a EMU touchdown; the player recovering the fumble had his hip on the ground when he got the ball.

The EMU defense got the ball on an interception which didn’t lead to points right away, but it did flip field position which lead to the 49 yard drive to go up 31-17, which is where the post picked up.

Bottom line: the score was close and total yards were close (484-460) but many of the Illinois yards came from a spectacular “almost a touchdown” run on the last play of the first half (time for one play, Illini at about their own 40) and in that final 93 yard drive. Most of the game was more lopsided than that.

I saw a very competitive game between two well matched teams, and that is a problem: EMU is a “good but not the best” MAC team; Illinois plays in the Big Ten.

The ESPN power index projects 4.2 Illini wins…I see where one of those MIGHT come from…hard for me to see the other.

These are pretty good highlights:

So…more media

The walk over.

Cricket game on the lawn

My Lovie “we will win” shirt..issued to season ticket holders in 2016.

Saw this little guy.

I love the tower.

Not a lot of people here (I am in this photo..didn’t realize just how empty it was on my side.

Early action

More early action

Not many here.

Ugly first half.

Saw this..too many times.

Illini rally.

Eagles win..and deserved to.