Illinois 41 Northwestern 3

It was an interesting trip with Harry: about 3 hours each way. Got there way too early. Had time to eat, lounge around and see the game.
What surprised me is how residential it is around Ryan Field. The stadium is antiquated (more so than the East side of Memorial). Most of the sightlines are ok though there are some sections I’d say away from.

They do rent chairbacks for 10 dollars (cash only); highly recommend them for people with older or achy backs.

Ah, the game itself: check out the stats. While the Illini did have success on the ground, with the no. 2 back doing most of the damage, the offense didn’t do *all* that much.

Yep, it was the turnovers. Northwestern repeatedly clowned themselves with bad throws that where intercepted (one pick-6, one almost pick-6) a botched hand off that the quarterback flipped over his head that was returned for a touchdown, etc.

The scrimmage line play was not as one sided as the score would indicate.

The game started off with an exchange of punts; then the Illini got a decent drive, mostly off of running to take a 7-0 lead. NW got a good drive, but then through a dreadful pass which set up an Illinois field goal.

The defenses took over again until the Illini mounted a decent 2 minute drive to take a 17-0 lead at the half.

The Illini got a field goal to take a 20-0 3’rd quarter lead,when on consecutive drives: the NW quarterback botched a hand off, flipped the ball over his head which was returned for a touchdown.

Then another drive, another interception, pick-6. By then it was 34-0 and all that remained was for the Illini to try to pad the stats of their no. 1 running back (didn’t happen, though he did get a touchdown and literally limped into the end zone..he was playing with an injury), and a face saving field goal.

Overall: decent trip; I do wonder about the historic stadium. The facilities are lacking (our restroom had one urinal and one toilet) though the sightlines were ok; had a good view of the game. It is probably time to tear it down and rebuild, as they are planning.

Some sights: “Do the math” (has to be Northwestern!)

I’d say “50 percent” Illinois fans

Lakeview of where we stopped to eat

Some tailgating

The large Bahai temple

Harry and me: balcony, just under the basically empty “club seating” that they have.

Illini drop 2 in a row at home but..

Well, we can talk about questionable or downright bad calls.

But we cannot dismiss how badly Purdue outplayed the Illini. Yes, it ended 31-24 when the Illini kicked a field goal with 22 seconds to go to pull within one score (a good call; down by 10, we need the FG anyway so may as well get it)

Anyway, to the game.

It was COLD.

Fortunately, my buddy Tom showed up and, well, a “slightly rubenesque” (and attractive) Purdue fan showed up and she sat to my right for most of the game, so I had some wind protection (and Purdue fans to talk to)

This was the coldest Illini game I remember. It was only in the mid 30’s, but there was a strong wind, so it felt colder than some Bears games did. I felt good, except for my feet; should have worn boots.

We were fortunate; there were a LOT of no-shows (announced attendance was 45K, but there were far fewer at the game) Technically, I am in this photo, off to the left.

So, how did the game go down?

Purdue got the ball and drove into the wind; turned it over on downs at the Illini 25. It was too windy to have a reliable FG attempt.

The Illini promptly marched it 75 yards for a touchdown, looking sharp. I was feeling good.

Purdue drove it again, got close again, but missed a field goal. Then the Purdue defense started to stiffen just a bit. Purdue threw an interception, but then the Illini had to punt, and finally, given a short field (the Illini let a Purdue punt roll)..Purdue drove it in to tie.

The Illini responded with a beautiful 10 play drive to score, then forced a Purdue punt..but then went 3 and out themselves, but they gave themselves 3 minutes to work with.

Then came the aformetioned questionable PI call..followed by the game tying touchdown pass and..that is where the “here we go again” feeling came back.

The Boilers gained momentum in the second half; forced a punt, then got another touchdown drive..90 yards! This was the key play…set up a spectacular pass to the tight end (we’ve had trouble with that; the Iowa tight end hurt us too)

Still, the Illini did fold; the offense got ANOTHER nice, long drive to tie the game again…so going into the 4’th quarter, it was all even at 21.

I still felt ok; though I worried our defense could not stop them.

And of course, we couldn’t. A long drive with a pass to the right end who drug our DB over the goal line gave Purdue the final touchdown of the day.

The Illini could go nowhere and though the D forced 2 Purdue punts, an interception with 3:4x left allowed Purdue to make Illinois use their time outs and gain just enough yards to kick a FG into the wind to go up 31-21 with 1:05 to play.

A last gasp Illinois drive lead to an Illinois FG with 22 second to play, but an onside kick failed.

Workout

Of course, I did my own workout before the game: PT followed by a 5K walk where I got gassed in the final mile; blood donation yesterday.

Did a second exercise walk on campus (carrying a bag full of gear) trying to be mindful to not get too sweaty. The weather WAS pleasant for walking.

Other remarks: didn’t see Illinois State get smacked at South Dakota State (not a surprise).

Navy: bless them; down 35-13 at the half in Baltimore to ND, rallied to cut it to 35-32 but didn’t get the final onside kick. ND was coming off of a big win vs Clemson.

Texas: I openly wondered why UT was favored over TCU, and the more I watched the game (a defensive slug fest at first), I wondered some more. It finished 17-10, but that was because TCU fumbled a read option hand off (no defensive pressure causing it) and UT got a scoop and score. It really wasn’t that close of a game.

Illini lay an egg; it is ok

Eventually, the Illini were going to have a bad game. They did: 23-15 loss to Michigan State, though MSU mismanaging the clock with first and goal at the Illini 9 and no time outs (ended up missing a field goal..it was very windy) gave the Illini life..which was extinguished.

A highlight for me: I got their early and walked 3.2 miles to get there (and another 0.8 to get to the car afterward) no pain.

I got 5K prior to leaving for the game due to my having to cut down sagging tree branches.

The game itself:

It was a weird one. It was windy….goal posts shook..kick offs didn’t go far (into the wind)

So, Michigan State got the ball; threw an interception on the very first play. Illinois drove it to the 3 to get first and goal..and got stuffed.

Ok, Michigan State couldn’t move, punted into the wind, and first play on the second drive: touchdown pass to the star wide receiver (mostly on running after the catch). It is 7-0.

But then Michigan State mounts a nice drive of their own (they had several) and drove it close enough for a chip shot field goal.

The second quarter; mostly dominated by the defenses though Michigan State had a nice, long drive with the wind but “doinked” the extra point. It ended 9-7 at the half, though there was more action. Illinois was driving and fumbled. Defense held. Illinois offense drove again but went on 4’th and long at the MSU 30; too windy to kick a field goal in that direction. Note the goal posts.

Second half: exchange of punts, then the second Illini punt of the half was a disaster.

Michigan State converted the short field into a touchdown.

Then on the next series, the Illini go for it on 4’th and short; the keeper play was stuffed..at the Illini 41. Michigan state converts the short field into another touchdown and now it is 23-7.

The Illini managed a touchdown drive to cut it to 23-15, but then excellent punting kept the Illini with bad field position.


Next to final drive: Illini start on their 13 and end up losing 4 yards to turn it over on downs at their own 9; 2:45 was left and the Illini had no time outs.

But Michigan State didn’t move; missed a 3’rd down pass and missed a short field goal on 4’th down.

Just over a minute the Illini have life.. but then:

Oh well. Stats were deceptive. Michigan State’s punting left the Illini with long fields, and they outgained the Spartans 441-294, but the Spartans converted their short field opportunities, and we were 0-4 on 4’th downs.

Illinois defeats Minnesota in Big Ten West “Playoff” game

Ok, I got my full PT and a treadmill walk prior to the game, and we added distance to and from the car to get some more miles.

Tracy seemed to like the upgrade to club seats. They have advantages but not sure the extra price is worth it on a game-in, game-out basis. I’ll return to my usual seats next game.

The game itself: Well, this was supposed to be the biggest challenge for the Illini yet, but..I’d say the Iowa game was harder. Yes, I know about the quarterback injury, but the Iowa defense is better than Minnesota’s though the Gopher running game is a LOT better than Iowa’s.

The Illini looked sharp all day; a time consuming drive was capped by a 40 yard pass to our star running back to make it 7-0. An interception stopped the Gophers then later, a drive ended up with a field goal to make it 10-0.

The Gophers then got their only sustained drive of the day, lead by their own star running back; it was now 10-7, but just before the half, the Illini responded..got down to the 5 and ended up with a field goal. 13-7 at the half

Second half: spectacular kick return and a horse collar tackle penalty set the Gophers up at the Illini 5, and then a run put them up 14-13, which proved to be their last score of the game.

Afterward…long drive by the Illini, mainly off a long pass to the 5. Then came a sequence of plays: run up the middle was stuffed, then a spectacular fake and bootleg to the left had the Illini quarterback walk into the end zone.

It was only 20-14, but that seemed to deflate the Gophers. Two more field goals..and there was the final score: 26-14.

I have to say that I was deeply impressed. The Illini offense play calling kept the Gophers off balance all day long. Total yards were 472-180, though the kick return skewed that a bit. Passing: Gophers had 38 yards; the Illini pass rush gave the quarterbacks no time to throw or to even look for open receivers.

The Illini had 27 first downs, 6-17 3’rd down conversions, 4-4 4’th down conversions.

I’ve followed them for about a decade, and, simply put, the stadium is about the same, the uniforms are similar, and even the raw talent isn’t THAT much different (Illini sent guys to the NFL every year), but the level of execution is much different.

When it is 3’rd down, I *expect* them to convert. I am finally getting to where screw ups genuinely surprise me.

The play calling: well, when the coaches call for a run on 3’rd and 8..well, I now think “coaches saw something that makes them think it will work”..and it often does!

Now, yes, I know that the Illinois schedule has something to do with the record: Wisconsin and Virginia are dumpster fires this year, Iowa has zero offense and Minnesota is a one dimensional team (their running is good) who got too much credit for blowing out unexpectedly bad teams (Colorado, Michigan State).

But, Illinois really can make a claim to being the best team in the Big Ten West, as of this moment, though Purdue might dispute that. We’ll seem them in Champaign later this season.

And yes, even genuinely decent teams will lay an egg from time to time; Michigan State and Nebraska worry me. No, they aren’t good teams, BUT they are underachieving teams with talent, and such teams can always be dangerous, especially if you overlook them.

Michigan is still a level above us, and Northwestern: dreadfully bad team but you never know. We managed to lose to Indiana so…

Still, it was a fun game, even if the stadium was 3/4 full.

Illini win 9-6 slugfest with Iowa

Most services I read predicted a low scoring, hard hitting game, and that is what we got. Drives, field goals..it was 6-6 at the half, with one of the Iowa field goals coming when Illinois fumbled a punt…held and forced an Iowa punt, then got another fumble at the Illini 5.

Iowa mounted an “almost drive” and missed a go-ahead field goal (very long attempt) right before the half.

The first half did see a key wide receiver and starting QB go out with ankle injuries, though the back up QB had starting experience from last year, and is capable.

Not much happened in the 3’rd and 4’th quarter until a long Illinois drive put them in position to kick the go ahead field goal.

But on 3’rd and 9, there was an apparent fumble that was returned for an Iowa TD, but reply showed the Illini quarterback’s elbow was down prior to losing control of the ball.

The Illini made the field goal, then forced an interception on the next series. But the Iowa defense used time outs to get the ball back, but he ineffective Iowa offense could do nothing.

I enjoyed the trip with Tracy;

The crowd as almost 45,000, which is the largest since September, 2016.

Note: no troubles walking to and from the car..that is a blessing.

What will happen tonight?

I am watching some football on TV, thinking about tonight’s Iowa at Illinois game. THIS YEAR, Illinois appears to be better, but Iowa isn’t that bad (two non-embarrassing losses) and still has a chance.

And the Illini will lay an egg sometime.

I’ll take the Illini to win and cover the spread (4 points).

I still got my workout in.

I’ve had some issues with the back/glute/leg (left); hot spot where the IT band inserts but this is probably due to the back.

I started with a slow warm up walk. It didn’t go great, but the PT afterward DID go well..
Then a somewhat faster paced 4 mile walk; again, it was NOT peaches and cream, but..well, no pain..just “thereness” and “not quite energetic.”

Ok, the 4 miler was not much of an effort.

This is one of my back stretches. Note the awful knees.

Kicking off October with a race and football

AM: only exercise was a race: it was to be enough today. it was a campus 5K and I was to power walk it (right support leg was slightly bent which would be a race walk violation)

1 mile warm up (16 minute) after all of my PT and I stretched my shins.

5K in 33:31. (10:42 mpm) It was not one of my faster walks (of all time) but it was my fastest walk in several years and uncomfortably close to some of my 2018-2019 “runs”.

Then a 1 mile cool down.

I did resort to some “street walking” early in mile 3 as I sped up in mile 2, trying to catch some slower runners. That was a mistake; I am not used to pushing myself like that. But as I walk more, I’ll get better.

Glute: felt is slightly in the evening after sitting for a long time.

I was good to see Mike again; I remember him from a race in 1997 when I chased him and Danny (and someone else) during the Crime Stoppers 5K.

It was a perfect day for walking.

Football

I watched most of Illinois 34-10 destruction of Wisconsin; the game did not start well with Wisconsin taking advantage of the Illini’s stacked defense and passing very well. It was 7-0 early and 10-7. But two Wisconsin interceptions set the Illini up with short fields and gave them a 14-10 lead.

At this point, it appeared that the Illini were taking over and dominating. Second half: drive to put it 21-10 and then:

That lead to a field goal; then on the next drive, the Illini star running back broke a 49 yard touchdown run (after being bottled up for most of the game)

and it was 31-10; 34-10 final.

It as if the teams had reversed their traditional roles; the Illini were the disciplined team and the Badgers were just sloppy: multiple penalties, fumbles, interceptions, etc.

I see the Illini, along with the Boilermakers (who beat Minnesota) and the Gophers (especially if they get their star running back back) as the top 3 contenders for the Big Ten West….though all teams are 1-1…whoops ..Badgers are 0-2. I am scouting out Illinois vs Northwestern tickets..might go to that game.

Late I switched to Navy vs Air Force and while the Mids tied it at 10 in the 4’th, the Falcons made that key drive to kick a field goal to win 13-10. Mids are looking better than the they did in the beginning of the season, but could improve some more.

Later: I went to a very entertaining Southern Illinois vs Illinois State game.

Early on: all Salukis. ISU had to answer to their short (and long) passing game, and aside from a missed and blocked extra point, it was domination: 19-0 at the half.

But then in the short third quarter, ISU found short passing game of their own and the second half was a mirror image of the first: 19-7 after 3, then 19-14 early in the 4’th. But then on ISU’s final drive (using tempo), there was a critical “no call” on PI in the end zone…then ISU failed on 4’th down.

There was 1:35 left in the game and ISU had 3 time outs. But the Salukis made a first down to seal the win.

Some sights:

Up too late

I was up too late watching Illinois beat FCS Chattanooga 31-0 in a game that was even more lopsided than the score might indicate. It was 24-0 at the half, and the Illini worked on clock and played a lot of guys in the 4’th quarter.

So, I went with PT and a 3 mile (3.3) walk and then a commuter walk over lunch.

Back to the Illini: I am watching Virginia go toe to toe with Syracuse; this is a team that Illinois dominated. Evidently the Illini are not a joke any longer.

Illinois State Defense powers 35-7 win over Eastern Illinois

Eastern came in with a narrow loss to FBS Northern Illinois (34-27) and a 38-20 loss to Tennessee Chattanooga (Illinois next opponent)

And at first..the Redbirds forced a punt and then scored on their first possession possession off of a long drive. But Eastern answered with a drive of their own, getting receivers wide open over the middle. So, it was 7-7 in the first and I settled in for a shootout.

The Redbirds countered with another drive to lead 14-7..then the tide really started to turn.

A 41 yard interception return just before the half (Eastern tried for one last drive) made it 21-7 at the half.

It was to get worse.

Second half: the Redbirds had a fourth and short inside the Eastern 40 but decided to pooch punt it, and downed the ball at the 1! That paid off as a screen pass was intercepted at the 2 and run in for the score, and now it was 28-7.

The Redbird defense took over after than, getting a fumble recovery at the 4 yard line (after a bad shotgun snap..Eastern had trouble with this for much of the second half)

That made it 35-7, and then the Redbirds focused on running and grinding out the clock.

The Redbirds sacked the quarterback 4 times and had 11 tackles for losses. In fact, until the final Eastern drive, they had negative yards rushing.

Illinois D shines in 24-3 win over Virginia

This was a game to savor; ok; it was a highly imperfect game. It started with 2 Illini turn overs; pass interception on the 2’nd play of the game, and a fumble on the next series. The latter lead to a Virginia field goal and 3-0 UVa lead.

After that, it was all Illinois, though the Illini were to turn it over two more times.

The game was sloppy, no doubt. UVa had a shot gun center snap go over the quarterback’s head, and a fumble on a punt return was recovered in the end zone for a 7-3 Illinois lead.

The Illini then took over; a couple of drives lead to a 21-3 lead in the 2’nd quarter.

Then the Illini, pinned at the 4 yard line, drove the ball 96 yards only to fumble on a completed pass on the 1 yard line. But it was still 21-3 at the half.

Illinois mostly stuck to the ground game in the second half, though they used their tight ends a bit, and in the 3’rd quarter, made a short field goal, while missing two more.

In the 4’th quarter, Virginia used a long quarterback run to get to the 5 with 1 minute left, and the fans still left were chanting for the Illini to hold the line..and they did!

Overall, the Illini dominated 394-222 in yards, despite slowing things down with the big lead. But mistakes kept the game “closer” on the score board than it really was. It really was a dominant win.

Other games: well, Navy got whipped, as I expected. Texas played Alabama to a 1 point loss, and Notre Dame lost to Marshall (underrated team..but still).

I caught the end of Illinois State vs. Valpo and ISU pulled it out 28-21. Pity the Illinois game was at 3 instead of 11: Harry and I could have had a double header.