While beat writer MATT DANIELS is still counting the number of missed tackles Illinois had against Washington, here are three items he learned from Saturday:
In the city that bears the same nickname, Illinois displayed some moxie in Chicago. Yes, the loss left fans frustrated at times. The play-calling didn’t click in the first half. The defense needs work. Again. But Illinois played with pride in clawing back from a 21-point second-half deficit. The same wasn’t true last year when Illinois would face the same kind of scenario. The lovefest for Nathan Scheelhaase probably cooled down a bit after Washington made him look bad on numerous occasions, but Scheelhaase likes the character that was evident in the latter stages of Saturday’s game. “I think we’re a hungry team,” he said. “When you have teams that want to go out there every day and are willing to fight and stay hungry, that’s a good little combination.” Wide receiver Miles Osei agreed. “That’s something we kind of prided ourselves on in the offseason was to fight, and that’s what we did,” he said. “We fight no matter what. If we’re down or we’re up, we’re going to try to give it our all.”
Akron nearly pulled off the stunner of the season (apologies to FCS teams) in taking Michigan down to the wire. By doing so, B.J. Luke probably puffed out his chest a bit more on Saturday. The Danville coach had to share similar sentiments to what Akron coach Terry Bowden felt in watching Justin March shine in The Big House. March, a junior linebacker for the Zips who starred with the Vikings during his prep career, picked off two Devin Gardner passes and returned one 27 yards early in the fourth quarter for a touchdown to cut Michigan’s lead to 21-17. March has encountered some difficult on-the-field moments during his time in LeBron James’ hometown — the Danville product has seen the Zips go 3-24 since he arrived — but keep playing like he did Saturday, and March is bound to enjoy a few more Akron wins before his college career ends.
All eyes on Texas
For the reasons Mack Brown wished to avoid. Illinois has a better record than the Longhorns right now after three games. Repeat, Illinois has a better record than Texas. Maybe firing defensive coordinator Manny Diaz wasn’t the cure-all Brown hoped for. New defensive coordinator Greg Robinson (can you really call someone who has held the same position before new, though?) watched Mississippi roll up 449 yards of total offense, including 272 rushing yards. Which is still less than half of what BYU did to Texas last weekend, but it’s still unacceptable. With all the money athletic director DeLoss Dodds is paying Brown, and all the big-time recruits Texas has reeled in, who knows if Brown will make it through the season. Especially if a prime-time meeting at home this Saturday with defending Big 12 champion Kansas State goes poorly.