Asmussen: In the grand scheme of things ... Hull of an effort

Asmussen: In the grand scheme of things ... Hull of an effort

On Illinois

— Steve Hull was having the game of his life. Too bad the clock didn’t stop midway through the third quarter Saturday night.

At that point, Hull had a career-high 176 yards and two touchdowns (he finished with 224 yards). More important, his team was tied with the Hoosiers at 21.

“(Saturday), we took advantage of some plays,” Hull said. “That’s just the way it worked out. It could be totally different next week.

“I was in the zone. It’s just part of the game. That’s my job.”

There are few happy endings at Illinois this season, unless you are the opponent.

Instead of a breakthrough win and a chance to keep thin bowl hopes alive, Hull had to settle for lots of stats in another troubling loss.

Guess which one he prefers?

“If we win the game and I have no catches, I’m ecstatic,” Hull said. “As good of a day as I had, it doesn’t mean anything without a win. It definitely hurts.”

Time is running out for Hull. He knows it. Barring a miracle win against Ohio State at home next Saturday, his career ends Nov. 30 at home against Northwestern.

Not what he had in mind going into his senior season.

“We really just need to focus on next week,” Hull said. “To reach a bowl game, we’ve got to win out. As tough as that challenge might be, we’ve got to prepare for that opportunity.”

His coaches and teammates appreciate Hull.

“He balled out and had a great game,” running back Josh Ferguson said. “He performed like a senior should.”

“Unbelievable,” Illinois coach Tim Beckman said. “I think Steve made some plays that were phenomenal. When we needed to make a play, Steve Hull was there to help us make that play.”

Hull has taken a more important role in the offense after a season-ending injury to Ryan Lankford. Finally, he is the go-to guy. With a term limit.

“Lankford being out is a huge part of our offense,” Hull said.

It takes Hull back to his redshirt freshman year, when Nathan Scheelhaase would find him at the dorm and throw endless passes.

“When I got back to receiver, we got back to throwing daily to each other and working on that connection.”

To his credit, Hull hasn’t worn the feelings of 3-6 on his sleeves. No temper tantrums.But when pressed, he lets it out. Just a bit.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” Hull said. “To be in that moment where we felt we had control of it and then to lose it, it’s beyond frustrating.

“That’s part of life. That’s part of the season.”

The game has been a part of his daily routine for so long. He’s endured position changes and injuries. With a smile on his face. Hull loves it all.

“I’ve always dreamed of helping this team win in any shape or form,” Hull said. “Whether that’s blocking or hitting somebody or making big plays. Whatever I can do.”



On the Big Ten

— Nothing like taking the weekend off and building your national title chances. That was Ohio State, which took the day off to “rest up” for Illinois. Talk about a wasted off week.

With Oregon’s loss to Stanford, Ohio State should move up a spot in the BCS standings, which come out this afternoon. The freaker-outers in Columbus need to relax. Nothing will be finalized until after the conference title games in early December. There is all sorts of time left for the Buckeyes to advance.

Based on the last month or so, Ohio State might be that team that I.T.G.S.O.T. had at No. 1 to start the season. Impressive wins by Alabama and Florida State cost the Buckeyes our No. 1 vote. Again, it’s early.

Urban Meyer’s team is a victim of its administration. No doubt, the Buckeyes could have taken on and beaten better teams in the nonconference. We will never know.

Meyer’s guys will go for style points against Illinois, which could mean a historic blowout at Memorial Stadium.

If the past has taught Meyer nothing else, he needs to remember teams that lost ranking spots late in the season because of close games. As far back as 1994, Penn State dropped in the polls because it didn’t beat Indiana by enough points late in the season. The Nittany Lions never regained the lost ground and finished second in the final rankings. Meyer is wise enough to make sure his team takes care of its business on the field.



— Yes, that really is Minnesota at 8-2 in the Big Ten. The Gophers took out Penn State on Saturday to continue one of the feel-good stories in college football this season. Their coach is battling back from illness, and the interim coach looks like a must-hire for a BCS program. The guess is that Tracy Claeys stays at Minnesota and eventually becomes the coach in waiting for the Gophers. No reason to go anywhere else.

Minnesota’s sudden move in the Legends is as shocking as any development in the Big Ten. Nobody saw it coming. Well, maybe the optimistic Kill. But nobody else.



— For a second, Purdue looked like it might give Iowa a game. The Boilermakers actually led the Hawkeyes.

Of course, it didn’t last long, the Hawkeyes storming back to avoid embarrassment. And losing to Purdue this year would be the height of embarrassment for any school.

Purdue’s one real shot at a win comes when Illinois visits in two weeks. The Boilermakers better find the next Drew Brees if they want to avoid losing for a while. The defense is liquid, and the offense can’t move a traffic cone with a bulldozer. Somewhere, Joe Tiller is laughing while fishing.



On the rest

— A few weeks back, folks were praising the work of Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech. Not now. Not after another loss Saturday, this time against Kansas State.

The Wildcats aren’t technically bowl eligible, but they do have a game left against Kansas to get there. Done deal.

The Red Raiders go back to being “the team Mike Leach used to coach.”



— So much for the great and powerful Oregon Ducks. For the second consecutive year, Stanford ruined Oregon’s chance to play for the national title. Probably. The 26-20 final is going to fool some voters into thinking the game was closer than it really was. Stanford had a 26-0 lead before trying to give it all back with a blocked field goal and dropped onside kick.

The question is how far will Oregon fall in the BCS standings? If it is only a couple spots, there is still a small chance to get back in the hunt.

Stanford has to be kicking itself over the loss to Utah. Without that failure, it would be thinking about the BCS title game, too. Like Oregon, Stanford still has a chance.



— When in doubt, give it to a senior. That’s just what Stanford did Thursday, letting Tyler Gaffney carry a school-record 45 times. That knocked “Touchdown” Tommy Vardell out of the top spot. Gaffney isn’t the prettiest runner ever, but he gets the tough yards. Without him on the field, Stanford loses by 20.



— Smart move by Stanford to have John Elway back for the game to retire his number. Now a big shot with the Broncos, Elway looks like he still could play. Hard to believe his final college game was the “Band is out on the field” loss to Cal.



— For a while, it looked like a World Series game in Waco. After trailing Oklahoma 5-3 on a David Ortiz homer (too soon, Cardinals fans?) Baylor dominated the rest of Thursday’s game for a 41-12 win.

The Bears remain undefeated and are getting a little growly about their place in the national title race. It will all sort itself out in time.

Bryce Petty and the Baylor offense gets all the kudos normally, but it was the defense and the running game that carried the Bears against the overmatched Sooners.

Bob Stoops has been a great coach at Oklahoma, but losing blowout games to Baylor will not sit well with the fans. Might be time for Stoops to look for a new gig. Somewhere that appreciates winning and doesn’t expect a national title every year.



— Yes, that was former Illini coach Lou Tepper leading the Buffalo defense to a near shutout in Tuesday’s win against Ohio.

Tepper’s Bulls held the Bobcats to 233 yards in a 30-3 victory. Buffalo is now 7-2, and coach Jeff Quinn has moved far off the hot seat. He might be ready for a promotion to a BCS program and should take Tepper with him.



— Love those midweek MAC games. That gives you a chance to see teams like Ball State, which improved to 9-1 with a win against Central Michigan on Wednesday. Pete Lembo, who has won at every stop, is ready for a move up. Maybe to the Big Ten.
 

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