Beat writer Matt Daniels breaks down Saturday's 45-17 win against Cincinnati"
Illinois showed what a real football team can look like. If it wasn’t Bill Cubit dialing in the right play calls, it was Tim Banks’ unit making life difficult for Cincinnati’s offense. Cincinnati looked nothing like the team that dusted Purdue a week ago. Illinois got ahead, stayed ahead and finished Cincinnati in the second half. Perhaps all the gimmicks and strategies Tim Beckman has used to get his team to play better in the third and fourth quarters worked. This is the most confident Illinois football has looked on Tim Beckman’s watch.
What it means
Beckman critics can ease off. For at least the next six days. No sideline interference penalties. No mind-numbing turnovers. Not even that many bad punts. Illinois played its most complete football game in some time, and the Illinois fans that left Memorial Stadium on Saturday had to, at least, start thinking of possible bowl plans. It’s early, still. That’s a given. Now players will have to deal with getting praised all week instead of hearing about what they did wrong.
A solid turnout for the Soldier Field game against Washington. Probably not approaching the sellout Miami and Notre Dame had last year at the Bears’ home venue, but Illinois should see plenty of orange and blue in the stands. Exactly what Mike Thomas wants. Now all the talk will center on if Illinois can get past the Huskies, who most likely arose early out in the Pacific Northwest and had to be a bit mystified about what they saw out of Illinois.
Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois
Jonathan Brown, Illinois
Bill Cubit, Illinois