Gut-punching loss for Illini

Gut-punching loss for Illini

CHAMPAIGN — The chants of "Go Big Red" rained down on Zuppke Field on Friday night as the clock ran out on Nebraska's 28-6 victory against Illinois.

The Cornhuskers fans outnumbered the Illini supporters by that point. Illinois fans had headed to the exit long before the final whistle sounded, with their team struggling on both sides of the ball.

The lasting image from the nationally-televised game was a Memorial Stadium filled with more red than orange.

The lasting sound byte? Pervasive cheers of "Go Big Red."

"It was pretty embarrassing, I think," Illinois freshman running back Mike Epstein said. "We didn't play well tonight and they had a great fan base out there, but we don't want to let that happen. We have to take care of business on our home field moving forward."

Illinois wide receiver Malik Turner had a more visceral reaction to the Cornhuskers being cheered off the Illini's — his — home field.

"My stomach kind of hurts," he said. "There was a lot of red out there, but that's on us. If we want it to change, we have to change ourselves."

Illinois embraced the opportunity for a Friday night national broadcast. It was an opportunity to show off the program and the university coast to coast. A recruiting tool. A chance to make a statement.

It ended in the same lopsided result as the previous nationally-televised game — the Illini's 24-point defeat against South Florida to end nonconference play. Albeit at home this time. That just added to the sting, as the announced attendance of 43,058 dwindled in the fourth quarter.

"The fans weren't there because the game was pretty much over and they didn't want to see an opponent celebrate on our field," Illinois coach Love Smith said. "We didn't get anything going, of course, tonight. Can't talk about anyone really playing well. We need a better game plan, and, of course, we need to play better. It's kind of simple as that."

Illinois returns to the drawing board with a road game at Iowa up next on Oct. 7. On Smith's to do list? Start finding fixes for an offense that stalled out near the end zone twice after moving the ball well to get in position to score, and a defense that made beleaguered Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee look like one of the conference's best.

"There was nothing that went well," Smith said. "If I knew the reason why, we would have done something about it then. Don't really know, but it's too late to even try to figure that out right now. We'll watch the video and make the necessary corrections and try to play better next week."

Chayce Crouch said no one in the Illini locker room was pleased with their performance and that they shouldn't be. It was a missed opportunity on what the redshirt junior quarterback called a "winnable" game.

"We all understand we're 2-2, and moving forward we have a big opportunity at Iowa," Crouch said. "We're going to move on to that game — learn from this film — but you can't dwell on games. ... Now, at this point, there's nothing to do about it but learn from your mistakes then move on to Iowa and take advantage of that opportunity."

The Illini will move forward with a bad taste in their mouth, too. Those "Go Big Red" chants resonate.

"That should leave a mark, and that should make you feel really bad," Crouch said. "I'll take that with me, and I'm sure a lot of us will."

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JamBam wrote on September 30, 2017 at 2:09 am

It's quite fitting that Illinois has the most wasteful spending in the entire US, and at the same time the highest paid state employee is Lovie Smith.  Lmao....Coincidence?  I think not.

At this point, I would not even call the $3 mils salary that Lovie Smith receives a "salary".  Just call it a retirement pension.  Lovie is retired for all intents and purposes.  Illinois must be his part time retirement job that he works at less than 20 hours a week. Given how ill prepared the team is, I'd be embarrassed for his sake if he's actually working more than that.  This guy completely bamboozled Josh Whitman, and the BOT into making nothing more than a politically & racially motivated "PR" hire which made no sense at all in terms of on the field production. A mediocre NFL coach that hadn't coached college ball in over 20 years? Yeah, good idea there.  Illinois must have the worst coaching staff in the entire country  Did you see some of the plays being called on offense last night?  I've seen more complicated plays called in Junior High. You got a roster whose only talent is at the WR position, and you don't even throw the ball. You keep the slow running QB in that can't throw,  and thereby negate any chance at all of getting the ball into the hands of your best players.

As for the crowd, 43,000 and most of those were Nebraska fans.  Not good news either for Josh Whitman.  Those numbers will be in the low 30,000s next year.  There's no reason to go.  Bad team. Bad atmosphere. No tradition.  It's exactly what the liberal academic elites have wanted for Illinois all these years. They didn't care about the Chief.  They wanted to make sports irrelevant at Illinois. Mission Accomplished!

If Underwood takes a fall for his prior assistant's mess, it'll be time to close shop on the Josh Whitman era.  Talked a big game, but a massive disappointment so far.  

Notsoaveragejoe wrote on September 30, 2017 at 8:09 am

Great post Jam.

Bwp 5P wrote on September 30, 2017 at 10:09 am

Early in the game........the Nebraska fans DIDN'T out number ours...........but they sure were louder!!


honor9chief wrote on September 30, 2017 at 10:09 am

Sorry kids the U wanted to end any recognition of the State name as Illinois lliniwek land of native Americans. They have made fun of, mocked native American history and literally spit in the faces of all the fans across the State. After this last judgement from Bob Jones the Chief is dead and so are the fans. This experiment isn't working out well for the NFL either. We don't care about your politics. We just want you to show up to work on time, strap on the helmet and entertain us. That's what us Americans want at the end of the day.

BruckJr wrote on September 30, 2017 at 7:09 pm

Coaching is just a bit of a sideline for Lovie these days.  His primary interest seems to be social commentary.

CallSaul wrote on September 30, 2017 at 9:09 pm

Man, what a paradox: the racism and outright delusions of slave owning grandeur evinced in these comments is astounding, yet at the same time entirely predictable...

And all from people who claim to want 'politics' and 'social commentary' out of 'their' sporting events. 

What they mean of course is that they don't want to be exposed to any politics or social commentary they disagree with...

And of course they're also pro chicken feather 'chief' as well. 

Quelle surprise...

JamBam wrote on October 01, 2017 at 1:10 am


Did you really suggest the commenters on here are slave owners?  lol...

I think we've all finally figured out your motivations for coming on this website and leaving comments on virtually every article.   You have to be getting paid by either Steve Bannon or the RNC to essentially mimic and lampoon far leftists.  It's really well done.  There's no other explanation. And it works great, because you essentially delegitimize all liberal positions thru your clown act.  No one can take them seriously.  The average person reads your stuff, and then thinks all democrats are idiots.

So good job Saul.  Keep up the good work.  As a strong Christian Conservative, I applaud your efforts.  It's definitely $$$ well spent by Steve Bannon.  

CallSaul wrote on October 01, 2017 at 2:10 am

Can you really fail to understand the concept of the delusions of grandeur you wallow in so deeply...?

Clearly, your ignorance --- about that, at least --- is more feigned than genuine.

Leaving comments on 'virtually every artice'...?

Why lie so obviously...?

But anyway, keep posting your delusionally racist screeds while thinking you're winning the day. With each word, you cement in everyone else's minds how low the Republcans have sunk from the Party of Lincoln a century and a half ago to the Party of Trump today...


culaghter wrote on October 01, 2017 at 1:10 pm

..true freshmen can't compete against 5th and 6th year starters on this level...should of raided the JC and black sheep players...I know you wanted to "build" the program here but that's several years away...

take a page from Mike White...and mix it many passing attempts to tight ends and running backs last week?...