College football beat writer Matt Daniels spent the fourth quarter Saturday night at Memorial Stadium counting the number of fans still in the stands (not many). Here’s what else he learned Saturday.
Who knows how many points Illinois and Indiana will combine for Nov. 9 in Bloomington. Both defenses have faltered. Repeatedly. Both offenses have moved the ball, albeit Indiana has done it more consistently. If you have any dinner plans that night, pray for an 11 a.m. kickoff. That game should last a long time. Perhaps John Groce and Tom Crean can give their respective schools a lesson in defense. Anything goes at this point. Nathan Scheelhaase didn’t struggle like he did in the first two losses for Illinois, so blame shouldn’t land on the quarterback’s shoulders.
“Nathan made some good plays for us,” Illinois coach Tim Beckman said. “We just have to do it consistently.”
Illinois made one change in the secondary against Wisconsin. Taylor Barton did not play after starting the first five games at free safety. His replacement, junior college transfer Zane Petty, compiled a game-high 14 tackles.
But it sure looks like Illinois’ offense will have to put up at least 40 points for the Illini to sing the school fight song after a game.
“I thought we threw the ball pretty well,” offensive coordinator Bill Cubit said. “We didn’t run the ball, but I knew that was going to be a tough task. I think up front, (Wisconsin is) really good. I still think against anybody we should move the ball. I thought our wideouts made some plays. That was good to see. I thought Nate threw the ball pretty well, but it was just that pressure early that just seemed to get to us.”
Those who viewed Gary Pinkel as a coach on the hot seat before the season started are probably wishing they hadn’t. The Missouri coach, in his 13th season in Columbia, has regained support with the undefeated season his Tigers are having this year.
Don’t look now, but those gaudy uniforms Missouri sports these days might match up against Nick Saban and Alabama in early December at the SEC title game. Key word is might. Florida isn’t the Florida that Urban Meyer or Steve Spurrier coached. More like when Ron Zook was roaming the sidelines at the Swamp.
But Pinkel has proven last year’s difficulties in the SEC are behind the program. It’s almost a certainty he’ll remain Missouri’s head coach going into the 2014 season, even with regular season games still left against a stingy South Carolina, a revitalized Tennessee, an improved Mississippi and an always-dangerous Texas A&M.
Not pink. Though the helmets Oregon wore late Saturday in Eugene, Ore., were eye-catching. So were the numbers Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday put up. Washington State lost 62-38, but that didn’t stop coach Mike Leach from letting his quarterback throw the ball an FBS-record 89 times. Halliday completed 58 of those passes for 557 yards and four TDs. He was intercepted four times, too.
Even by forcing that many turnovers, Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti didn’t like the move by the brazen coach. Not one bit. He called the decision “low class” and used other descriptive words not fit for a family newspaper.
“In the end, he’s still throwing at a time when most guys would try to end the game and go home,” Aliotti told reporters after the game.
Who knows what point Leach was trying to make. Maybe he just wanted to get under the Ducks’ skin. And he certainly did.