Well… here we go again. “Should be 3-0 heading to Oklahoma” and “it just feels different this year” are all things we said and we were duped again. I’m really regretting stating in my preview that if we can’t beat Illinois, probably time to start looking for a new staff. But I don’t think I was wrong when I typed that (even though after game 1 you don’t start looking).
Illinois fired their coach from last year because they were so bad, had a new coach game 1, and either outcoached us, outprepared us, or have better players than us. Any of those in our year 4 compared to their game 1 is unacceptable. Let’s dive into a few things I heard or saw:
So what Frost is referencing here, is that they prepared for an odd front (3 man line as they were running 3-4), but they saw mostly an even front (4 man front). I really struggle with that. I have helped coach from 8 man, to Class A, even have a college teams HUDL access. Every single one of them has 5 or 6 base run plays that they rep the piss out of against every single front. Even the 8 man team has the offensive line come up to the line of scrimmage and call out even or odd front for how they are blocking it, and what they call lets the RB know if it will hit straight on and fast (odd front) or if the cutback will most likely be there (even front). Literally the OL says what to look for, as they can get their angles on an odd front where against an even front it’s tough for them to get to it. I just don’t know a team I help that it would throw them that far off. Further, so our OL was so bad compared to Illinois DL that we couldn’t just move the guys in front of us? Here’s a picture for you:
They have 6 guys in the box! This isn’t stacking the box with 8 or 9 guys. There’s 6 guys there, we have 5 blockers, and the QB on a zone read holds one of them, so it’s 5 v 5 with a RB. We can’t block this because we prepared wrong?!?! By the way, we didn’t block the noseguard, ran an OZ, and got gobbled way up:
That is just so bad. Nebraska’s RBs had 19 carries for 55 yards. What the hell is that? And then you take away the times where Martinez actually scrambled on a pass (like his 75 yard TD run) and we were awful running the ball when we wanted to run. But save all that… “we just fell behind” was what he said, when in reality we were up 9-2 until about 3 minutes in the second quarter. And it was tied until the sack/scoop and score with a minute left! We weren’t behind!
And what the hell was going on with our special teams? We had 3 punts under 30 yards! How does that happen? One of our returners taking a safety but hucking the ball forward was about like those youtube videos where a kid will hit the teeball and then take off running to 3rd base. But this was a D1 athlete. I just don’t know what we are doing? Typically for your returners in every level of football you put your heels on the line (used to be 10 yard line but with the backspin punts sometimes the 5) but we are fielding a ball at the 1 yard line? All of a sudden our 1st team all-conference kicker is missing 2 XPs? Holy buckets.
I did see some good things! Defensively, I thought we played well. Heck we had two missed XPs and a scoop and score for 9 points… take away those we win. They gave up less than 350 yards of total offense. Heck, we had 3 sacks in less than a quarter of football!
But with all that pressure, we take out their starting QB. So in comes a guy, that left where he was because our backup QB (Noah Vedral) showed up at Rutgers. The dude had 4 TDs and 18 INTs in 2018. Sitkowski comes in and beats us. How?!? I’ll tell you how… Bielema found out we were getting pressure so he basically started max protecting. The video above is 4 wide. Take a look at this one, 2 TEs and a RB protecting and only a 2 man route:
So they took a shot deep, on some of our deepest positions (DBs), and a guy that couldn’t beat out Noah Vedral drops a dime and we get scored on. Also, they schemed away from JoJo Domann who had only 1 tackle.
Nick Henrich led our team in tackles, just like he did each of the two games to end the season in 2020. Garrett Nelson appeared to play well. But something was just off. I don’t get it.
Where do we go from here? To get to a bowl game, we probably needed to beat Illinois who was theoretically our 3rd/4th easiest game on our schedule. And everyone says “if not for a few plays we win” or “another one score loss”. Is that a positive? We should be able to have a dozen plays that don’t go right and still beat a team that is playing their backup QB and just fired their coach from the previous year, right? Hell, there’s 140 other plays out there for us to do well, isn’t there?
You now have to beat Fordham, Buffalo, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, and Minnesota just to get bowl eligible. I promise you a couple of those teams are better than Illinois. I golfed with a local media personality that said it had to be catastrophic for us to get rid of Frost, but we were both counting Illinois as a win. It could get catastrophic. We will be at best 2-2 heading to East Lansing, things could go off the rails before October if things go bad.