In the grand scheme of things ... Illinois should keep Cubit

In the grand scheme of things ... Illinois should keep Cubit

AP Top 25 and Heisman Trophy voter Bob Asmussen is in his 27th year covering college football for The News-Gazette. Here are his thoughts and observations after the second weekend of the season:

Hire him. Right now.

Don’t let Bill Cubit go one more second as interim coach.

He earned the promotion Saturday, beating Nebraska at home in a game many thought was lost. Last time Illinois beat the Cornhuskers, Red Grange was on campus.

Monumental moments bring monumentral decions. Like telling your former offensive coordinator that he is in charge. For good.

Why now? Because five week after a low point for the program, all seems right.

Cubit showed his happiness, hugging his players and coaches after Saturday’s comeback win. Then he talked about where it ranked in his career.

“Personally, it might be the best,” the former Western Michigan head coach said. “This team has faced so much adversity.

“Today, before we went out there, I talked to them about visualizing success. Close your eyes, envision what it’s going to be like with 0:00 on the clock and you walk off that field and that bands playing and those fans are cheering you on. It’s unbelievable. That’s what happened.”

There are no trust issues for Cubit. Taylor Zalewski missed two field goals Saturday. But Cubit wasn’t worried when he trotted out for the most important extra point at Illinois in years.

“He did it,” Cubit said. “In five short weeks, our kids have adapted and changed their attitude that quickly. You’ve got to give these kids some credit.”

— Cubit showed he will fight for his players, his team, his program. When a blunder by the officials cost his team a possession in the third quarter, he went berserk. 

That’s a good thing.

— Cubit has his signature win. With a chance for many more. Iowa is next, followed by Wisconsin. Ohio State visits later in the season. You wouldn’t bet against Cubit in any of them.

A bowl game still isn’t a done deal, but it is closer. Two more wins and he’s got his team in the postseason.

Illinois is actually off to a 1-0 start in the Big Ten. For just the third time since 1993. Winning the Big Ten West, absurd as that seemed five weeks ago, is possible.

“We’ve got a shot,” Cubit said. “That’s all we really ask for.”

— Cubit was going to dinner after Saturday’s game. He had an important recruit in town.

“I hope when I walk into Biaggi’s that everybody says, ‘Hey, nice game,’ " Cubit said. 

— Cubit’s players believe in him. And they want to see him stick around.

“He’s awesome,” linebcker Mason Monheim said. “Guys respect him as a man. He’s a players’ coach. He treats us well. He demands a lot. It’s easy to follow a guy like that. He’s the right guy for the job and we’re happy he’s there."

— Now the flip side: Mike Riley.

He is a wonderful man with a solid record. But he made odd decisions Saturday that cost his team the game. Like throwing on third down late when he would have been better off running the ball.

Nebraska fired a coach who won nine games every year. It will take a miracle for the team to get to nine this season.

The sky is falling for Nebraska fans. Three last-second losses, and we are barely to October.

The News-Gazette used to include a coaching grade in our postgame reports. If it was part of today’s coverage, Riley would have had an F.

Glad I put Iowa in my Top 25 this week. And happy I kept Northwestern there. Wisconsin? We need to talk.

Northwestern’s shutout win against Minnesota shouldmove the Wildcats up several spots when the national polls are released today. It is starting to look like Pat Fit Fitzgerald has a special team in Evanston. A year after missing a bowl with a final-game loss to Illinois, the Wildcats need only one more win to return to the postseason. Impressive.

— We shouldn’t be surprised by Iowa’s win against Wisconsin. Kirk Ferentz has his share of big victories over the years. But the folks in Iowa City have been grumbling a bit about the coach in recent years. Not now.

With the win against the turnover-plagued Badgers, Iowa shares front-runner status in the Big Ten West with Northwestern. And maybe Illinois.

— Cal and Houston both are under consideration for Top 25 votes after big wins on Saturday.

— Congratulations to Kent State, which picked up its second victory of the season, edging Miami (Ohio). Hard to beleive that's the same team that got blitzed by Illinois in the lightning-delayed opener. Well done, Paul Haynes.

Bob Asmussen can be reached at 217-351-5233 or by email at

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JimOATSfan wrote on October 03, 2015 at 11:10 pm

Shades' of Reilly O'Toole ... Cubit's got my vote - Illini Head Coach!

PS: Spellcheck is good Bob, you type like em :D

illini82 wrote on October 03, 2015 at 11:10 pm


It was a great win. A great win for Illinois and a great win for Cubit. 

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.  I've never seen a journalist who actually is an opinion writer, who always is in love with the current head coach. "keep Zook" even after 3-9, Keep Beckman even after his abysmal first and second seasons and jaw dropping, head shaking gaffes.

And here you go again, only 5 games into a season and ready to annoint the "interim coach" as the head coach.

Let's give it a few games first. Like the whole season.  Call me if he gets to 7 wins.

His head scratching decisions to go on 4th down instead of taking points is mind numbing but perhaps more mind numbing are the plays on 4th down. He did it 2 weeks in a row.

Let's be honest. the last two wins were escapes and the best performance has come from the defense. A defense that should be given the game ball for today's win after an abysmal performance for the most part from the offense. 4 trips inside the 30 in the first quarter but no points. And who is in charge of the offense?

Anyway it WAS A GREAT WIN.

But let's not start handing out contracts yet. Let the season play out. Then we'll know but not yet. Not yet.

Illiniwek21 wrote on October 04, 2015 at 7:10 pm

He actually said in his presser that he definitely would not have gone for that 4th down play against MTSU again, and that it was stupid of him to waist 2 timeouts there. The guy is honest about when he messes up, that's a plus our previous coach didn't have.

Also, you really can't blame the offensive staff for everything. Beleive it or not, we aren't as strong on offense as people believe. Lunt is at fault for alot of the rigidity in our plays, and our recieving corps has dropped 5 TD passes this year and an abhorrent number of passes. We are, and may always be, a work and progress. So it's not the worst argument to suggest that we keep continuity in a program that is starved for stability.

Illini '73 wrote on October 04, 2015 at 9:10 am

Isn't this the definition of "knee-jerk reaction"?

Maybe Cubit will deserve to stay on permanently.  But...

You sure didn't have that thought last week.

What will you be saying if the Illini finish 1-7 or 2-6 in the Big 10?

Why not wait before we make another decision that we'll regret?

Remember, it all starts with recruiting.  We'll never have a team that is consistently good until we can get athletes that are on par with our competition.

Denbert wrote on October 04, 2015 at 10:10 am

Would someone please explain why Cubit wasted the last 50 seconds of the 1st half?  


Neb was 4th and 12 at our 30? and he let the clock run down from 49 to 16 seconds before he used the forst of two timeouts to psych Nebraskka's field goal kicker.  Didn't work.  


He redeemed himself in the last 50 seconds of game and did that with no timeouts!


When will they hire a nerd with a laptop to sit on the bench and advise the coach on time management issues like when to use or not use timeouts, when to run or pass?  Riley could have used one too.    

Moonpie wrote on October 04, 2015 at 4:10 pm

"Cubit has his signature win. With a chance for many more. Iowa is next, followed by Wisconsin. Ohio State visits later in the season. You wouldn’t bet against Cubit in any of them."

Really? Seriously? Did Legendary Cheerleader Tate write this column?

CecilColeman wrote on October 04, 2015 at 5:10 pm


Hire Cubit now.........and insist he find a scholarship place kicker and a scholarship punter. And no, I do not mean kickers that have also been offered by Central Michigan, Toledo, Ball State or Buffalo.

Bwp 5P wrote on October 04, 2015 at 5:10 pm

Geez.....I agree........I'd much rather score 35 and lose than 14 and win!

And WHAT kind of a coach can't kick a field goal?? Surely all Big Time coaches can kick....right?


It WAS a big win! Enjoy it.....let the Kids celebrate it as such...........Can Iowa smoke us next weekend? Absoulutely they may!

My question is: What will you guys whine about should the unlikely happen and we compete....if not win?!?!


Talk about a bunch of "downer fans"! How many of you others sat out there in the cold and rain and watched us WIN?

Illiniwek21 wrote on October 04, 2015 at 6:10 pm

Illini fans always self depricate and aren't used to winning. It really is sad to see them turning to anger and cynicism when we may actually be on a slow and steady rebound. We need more optimism

TyroneHogglegg wrote on October 05, 2015 at 7:10 am

Dont get carried away...Until they beat a "good" (say top 25) team, I'm not listening to this...Lets see what happens in Iowa City....