Saturday, September 11, 2010

Natural Ability - Week 2

Well, that's why they play the games. Spring camps, summer camps, and the first week mean little if you don't back it up with your play in WEEK 2. And while my Fighting Illini let one get away last week in St. Louis against Mizzou, we took it to the #2 team in the FCS (SIU) today in the house of paign - Memorial Stadium. You can't keep a good man down for long, or the CHIEF.

Natural ability is what I'm talking about. When you play smart football with speed and strength, doing what comes naturally instead of only thinking or reacting to the action on the field. We did a lot of things well tonight against SIU, but still have room for improvement heading into week 3 next week at home against NIU. Turnovers in the passing game (INTS) need to go away. Good win yes, but are we done? No.

As for the good, the running game under Mikel LeShoure continues to look really good. Year in and year out under Zook, we're one of the strongest running programs in the nation, averaging more than 5 ypc behind one of the biggest offensive lines in the country (averaging 309 lbs. and 6'6"). That will need to remain our bread and butter this year if we're going to have success. The passing game will be useful, but the rushing attack will need to lead the way - especially in conference when the weathe turns cooler and wetter.

As for more good, the defense continues to play hard and fast. Violent hands. SIU put up 70 points last week against Quincy. This team went 11-2 last year in the MVC. We challenge everything on this side of the ball. We are physical at every layer, up front, in the middle, and deep back. When you understand the system and schemes, it's amazing how fast you can play. I haven't seen this intensity from the boys in several years under Zook. We only gave up 112 yards in the first half to the Salukis, #2 FCS team in the land. Nurse, Thomas, Leguit, Henry, Bellamy, Bussey, Wilson, and company came up huge all night, especially in the red zone when it matters most. I like the mentality this year on that side of the ball. Good things happen when you swarm to the ball. We have been doing that well so far this year.

And how about the battery of Scheelhaase (QB) and Jenkings (WR) this year? Nathan looks more comfortable with each and every snap. Nate reminds me of a smaller Pryor, very elusive and crafty on his feet. And Ford / Leshoure (465 pounds combined) will continue to batter defenses all season in the running game. Mikel is our bell-cow, feed your meat. And welcome to the show Mr. Evan Wilson and Justin Lattimore in the passing game. Huge.

But the most important thing offensively is to recognize who we are, what are strengths are, and where we want to be as a football squad. Petrino screwed up the second half against the TIGERS last weekend with the play calling, but he made amends tonight against a pretty game SIU club from Carbondale. Road-grating. Laying the rock. Pounding it and throwing when needed. That is the recipe for success for this 2010 club.

Week 2 Suprises and letdowns?
1) Michigan, specifically Denard Robinson, and his ability to lead that young Wolverine club with his legs and arm. Heisman front-runner right now.
2) Va. Tech losing to James Madison. Looks like Boise State beat the Hokies twice, and perhaps once too many. Broncos didn't need VA TECH losing today and hurting their BCS chances. In addition to the Hokies, you can add Miami, FSU, and Penn State to this list of under-achievers in WEEK 2. All were disappointing to me.
3) Illinois - a slightly biased pick perhaps. But nonetheless, we steam-rolled #2 FCS SIU at home, 35-3. And it wasn't really that close. Up next Norther Illinois.
4) Random observations - BYU is struggling with its 2QB system. Notre Dame can't win without Crist at the helm. Iowa, Wisconsin, and Sparty all look strong. And the Ducks are on the verge of something special unless it blows up.
5) And what about the ACC? Four ranked teams fell this Saturday in Va. Tech, FSU, Miami, and Georgia Tech. Ugh - not a good day for the that conference.

Updated Top-10 (Week 2) -

1) Alabama - Continue to roll and barely broke a sweat against Penn State.
2) Ohio State - Very impressive on both sides of the ball against the CANES.
3) Boise State - Off this week, but they deserve a rest and no travel.
4) Oklahoma - Big bounceback win at home over FSU.
5) TCU - Two impressive wins in a row. This team is so physical and determined.
6) Oregon - On the verge of a special season including a shot at the national title.
7) Nebraska - Defense looks really good. Offense is efficient. Good combo.
8) Iowa - Best D in the conference. Strong running game. Vet QB. All good things.
9) Texas - Two easy wins so far at home. 10/2 with OU around the corner.
10) Wisconsin - Will pound you and your mom to death all night long.

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