Illini grade vs. Youngstown State: C-
Player of the game
Illini quarterback Wes Lunt
After a shaky start (give the guy a break, he hadn’t played in two years), the Rochester rocket finished with 285 yards and four touchdowns. And his teammates promise he will get better. Somewhere, Nathan Scheelhaase was smiling, knowing his old spot is in good hands.
Actually, split the grade and give the passing game a B and the run game a D. Against inferior teams (no offense, Coach Wolford), the Illini have to average better than 3.5 yards per carry. Penguins quarterback Dante Nania gave Missouri Valley defenses a whole lot to worry about.
Illini still need to work on their takeaways (none) and fourth-down conversions (Youngstown was 2 of 3), but Tim Banks’ guys kept the Illini in the game when the offense wasn’t working. Next week, against Western Kentucky, will be a much better test. Illini need to do a much better job of getting off field, allowing the Guins to hold the ball 40 minutes.
Special teams: C-minus
Yes, the Illini got a long kickoff return. And they made a great play on a pivotal blocked punt late in the game, but they also shanked a couple of punts and had two kickoffs go out of bounds. Bad sign when both the backup kicker and punter was needed (it is the same guy). Penguins might want to scrap the rugby-style punt. It helped cost them Saturday’s game.
Prepare to hear the following term a lot this week: a win is a win. Except, when it comes against an FCS school at home. If not for a big fourth quarter by Lunt, the Illini would have spent the weekend trying to explain a nightmare loss. The game does give Youngstown State a nice starting point to a season they hope ends in the playoffs.
Special teams C