Saturday, October 13, 2007

Week #7 - Heartbreak in the Heartland...

Having fun yet? What's with those pink lockers anyway? Killer loss for my young ILLINI today in Iowa City. It sucks when you lose late in the game, especially at the goal-line for the 2nd time this season. It's a different team and different game each week. I've been saying that all year. First the 83 yard TD that wasn't. Then the goal-line pick with a minute to go as we were about ready to punch it in for the win on the road. Ugh! We had a good run through September. Where do we go from here? Doesn't look like GAMEDAY will make its first visit to Champaign next Saturday. This was a tough loss.

Sure, we're still alive in the BIG-10 race, but the Revenge Tour was de-railed today by a very game HAWKEYE club who was scrappy on both sides of the ball. It was a cold, wet, and dreary day at Kinnick. The game itself was quick - played in just two hours and 50 minutes. Our play selection for most of the game was clear - nothing flashy and too conservative. It didn't look like we had a sense of urgency until 2:14 to play in the 4th quarter. Our passing game is clearly a work in progress. I've said it before, we're too one dimensional as a club on offense. Sure, we have a great rushing attack with the triple-option threat. But, in order to improve and make that next step-up in conference on the national scene we have to find a way to consistently move the ball through the air for at least 150 yards on 50% passing and no turnovers.

The penalty that took six points off the board late in the game really hurt. I guess #16 was in an illegal formation. Still, a tough pill to swollow. It just looked to me like my offense was stuck in 1st gear all day until late in the game. But give credit to Iowa. They played a great game at home today in keeping our big-play guys mostly in check all afternoon. They converted 10 of 17 3rd-downs today which may have been the hidden difference. We gave up too many big 3rd downs last weekend against Wisconsin as well. That gap needs to be closed and closed soon if we want to contend with the big boys in conference. Of course the biggest 3rd -down conversion was the 15-yard TD pass over the middle in the 2nd half of a close game.

How about Eddie McGee? Is there a QB controversy in Champagin? Should there be? I contend that Eddie is simply more confident right now in and out of the pocket. That 29-yard rope he threw to Rejus on the sideline was a strike that Juice can't make right now. Eddie just looks better in the passing game, until the game-ending interception. He has a tendancy to turn the ball over at key moments of the game just trying too hard to make a play. Can't fault him for that. I'm proud the way we laid it all on the line late in the game. Maybe we'll make some offensive changes for next week to get more veritical in the passing game as we open things up a little on the attack.

Again, tough loss in a game that most agree we should have won today. I'm not surprised by the loss. We haven't won at Kinnick in 7 or 8 years. It's not an easy place to play much less win. I don't think we were looking ahead to Michigan at home next weekend. Right now, we're a team looking for an identify on offense. We're not a true triple-option threat nor are we a pure run and shoot club. At times we look unstoppable; other times we can't get out of our own way. McGee adds more of a 2nd threat in the passing game than does Williams, but he has a tendency to turn the ball over at key moments in the game. It's scary to think how good we could be if we get the passing game figured out. At least we're exciting to watch these days. Every game is competitive. I don't expect anything different next weekend at home in Champagin against Lloyd's squad.

Still yet, who knows. You just have to play hard and finish each week. I expect my team to earn 8 wins this season given our 5-2 start. Anything less than 7-5 will be considered a disappointing season at this point. Nobody would have predicted a 5-2 stretch out of the gates. We can't be content at this point. No game is a given these days in CFB. Too many good teams, players, and coaches all across the land. We'll see where we go from here. I'm not liking my team's chances next weekend against BIG BLUE who seems to be coming into its own right about now. Michigan is playing about as well as anybody in the country right now. We're a good team have a great season. Clearly the transformation is underway. But this year, the BIG-10 is all about Michigan and Ohio State - what a surprise. We should be able to continue the turnaround this year and watch-out for 2k8. We're still a year away from really contending with the BIG BOYS. Basketball season is right around the corner.

Message to the Coaches - What was that? I haven't seen such conservative play calling since the 2004 GOP convention. Buck-up and bring it next week or else. I put this loss mostly on Zook and Locksley (sp?) - we should have outscored a mediocre HAWKEYE club by 20 points or more. We were way to 1-dimensional in that performance. The spread-option attack is predicated on making some plays in the passing game. If we don't have the right personnel on the field to do that then make the necessary change (s). To me and most it appears that right now McGee is the more complete QB. He deserves a full quarter or two of play to prove what he's worth. We shouldn't be satisfied with 5-7 or 6-6 this year. At this point, anything less than 7 wins this year will be a disappointment. My way of thinking, the future is now and not next season. Don't be complacent with the national media (ESPN) and what they think of you. I'm not satisified with a #18 ranking either. Are you the coaches who beat Wisconsin by going for it on 4th and 1 or are you the staff who brought the wrong offensive scheme to Kinnick yesterday against a lesser opponent? Which one is it? Sure, we've come a long way and you're to be commended for the 'turnaround'. But right now, we're at an inflection point. Sound coaching and scheming is imperative for continued success in a young-team's development. Lead by example and put some trust in your young players - including Williams. We're much better than what we showed yesterday in Iowa City. Or at least I think so. Leave it on the field guys, not on the bus. Every play matters.

For the day, we were held to just 287 total yards from schrimmage and 15 first downs. Yuck! Coupled with two turnovers on offense, just not enough in the tank to win. Iowa did a good job in holding us to just 137 predictable yards on the ground. We had to earn every one. Nothing came easy at Kinnick. They did a good job in holding us to 24 points below our season average, and we did the rest to chip in. Ugh!

Elsewhere around the country, can you believe how crazy this season is right now? I can't remember another one like it in recent memory. Sucks to be a ranked team these days. Just ask LSU and CAL. Big congrats to Rich Brooks at Kentucky. He turned Oregon around in the 90's and now Kentucky in 2007. The man can coach! How 'bout those Beavers? Wow, I didn't see that one coming but should have. Beavers have won three in a row at Berkley. Bernard was huge. Huge win for the Beaver nation as they shake up the PAC-10 and national landscape once again. Unbelievable. Beavs were 5/5 tonight inside the redzone. Enough said. The last time both #1 and #2 lost on the same day was back in 1996, Nebraska and Tennessee - respectively. The last time #1 lost in the regular season was 2003. Yep, we haven't seen a year like this in quite some time. Are you kidding me? Nothing is for granted this year. Call it parity. Call it coaching. Call it scholarship restrictions or whatever you like. You just never know anymore. There are no dominant teams this year. Here's your TOP-25 ROUNDUP.

My TOP - 10 (cursed if you're ranked in here):
1) OSU, 2) OK, 3) BC, 4) LSU, 5) OR, 6) USF, 7) WV, 8) VT, 9) SC, 10) USC

And the BCS came out today. If you care this early you can find the latest computer rankings here - likely to change by next weekend. BCS. The list is topped by Ohio State, USF, and BC.

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