Saturday, September 09, 2006

Massacre in Piscataway - Down We Go Again

Pronounced 'Piss the cat away", in case you're wondering. Well, this is getting tough to take. It was the exact opposite of Custer at Little Bighorn. The Chief was scalped himself today. And by the state school of New Jersey (Rutgers) - ugh! I mean ILLINOIS is the home of Red Grange and Dick Butkus for Pete's sake. What can be said, our program is at an all-time low. We're in shambles right now, and I don't see a silver lining in any of the storm clouds. When you make this list you know you really suck: THE BOTTOM 10. It's true, with our fans, facilities, and recruiting base we should never be on this list.

But - we can't tackle, block, run, throw, catch, or even punt. Rutgers hung 30 points on us in the FIRST HALF, ugh! They did it in every imaginable fashion: blocked punts, interceptions, field goals, and offensive touchdowns. Every play on offense for us looked like we were just trying to survive. Both QBs were under seige all afternoon. It was about as UGLY as a lipstick on a pig on Michigan Avenue. Ugh! We are very very very bad. Coach Zook tries to put it all in perspective as he tackles some of the big questions coming out of this game when he met the press on tuesday. So many questions and concerns about the morale of the team, the QB situation, on playing tough on the road, and on Syracuse.

I'm sick of ESPN comentators apologizing for my team. It's getting ridiculous already. And old. 6-28 in the last few years doesn't cut it. And, I don't care how many freshmen and sophomores we have on our team anymore. You can only make excuses for so long before they just don't hold water - at least with me. We have a long re-building process ahead of us. Let's get started already Ronnie. Your future is now. You better win next week at home against the Orangemen or it's going to get really ugly in Champaign-Urbana. Are we the worst DIV 1-A program in the land right now? I hope not, but only time will tell.

I have some real concerns about the future of Illini football under Coach Zook. Is he really a football coach anyway? Or, is he quite possibly one of the most over-hyped motivators east of the Mississippi? Is he just a mediocre recruiter, or can he actually lead a football program back to the top (even though we've never been to the top)? I just don't think he has the football knowledge to get it done in Champaign or anywhere else. Don't get me wrong, he means well and genuinely seems to care about the program and the kids. But caring and trying are different than delivering results. He's in his 2nd season, and I don't really see any improvement over last year. I know we're a young program (so are many others), but ours doesn't seem to have the football discipline or acumen to be competitive in the short-run or long-term. Ouch. It pains me to say that.

Where do we go from here? I'll try to put a positive spin on a negative situation. To be honest, I'm not sure. The defense really looks slow and under-sized. I don't see themselves in the right football positions on the field to make plays. Same for the offense which looks out of sync. I don't like any of the play-calling from the bench. I put that problem squarely on the shoulders of the head coach. He's just not scripting the right gameplans for such a young squad that is really stuggling with finding some confidence of any kind. We haven't won on the road since 2002, and I don't see that changing for a few years anyway.

So, where do we go from here? The good news is that it can't get any worse. It can just stay this bad for a while, I suppose. We do have some atheletes / players under scholarship, but they're not ready to contribute just yet. Juice looks like a real freshmen (which he is). Mendenhall might be our future stud at RB, but even he can't make a difference when he's not given the ball. Brasic is done. Let's just focus on getting Williams the snaps he needs to develop this season. The defense will mature over time (we're still young there and occasionally make some big plays). We need to get bigger, faster, and meaner on that side of the ball. We don't own the line of schrimmage; and are barely paying rent - in my opinion. I have to say use the rest of the season as a 'practice' for next year, but there really isn't any other option at this point. The Illini football nation is reeling right now, and that pains me. Oskee Wa Wa Illinois. Until next year.

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