The Illini Offense Struggles Against Washington

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Illinois was held to a season-low in points today.


CHICAGO- The Illini came into Soldier Field today hoping to continue their unbeaten season and make their “Chicago Homecoming” something special. Unfortunately, that would not happen as the U of I lost to Washington 34-24.

The Illini had difficulty in the first half. They gained yards but they were unable to find the end zone. Their first scoring chance came midway through the first quarter when they attempted a 41-yard field goal, it sailed wide right.

Illini kicker Taylor Zalewski redeemed himself on the first possession on the second quarter by converting a 40-yard field goal kick. That would be the only points of the half for the Fighting Illini.

Nathan Scheelhaase didn’t throw his first touchdown pass until the third quarter, he also ran for a touchdown. The Senior signal caller had a particularly rough day as he was sacked four times. That’s not even counting the numerous times he was hit, hurried and pressured.

The offensive line seemed overwhelmed by the speed of the Washington pass rush. When I asked Scheelhaase after the game about his offensive line’s performance he said “It’s not just on them, it’s on me too as the quarterback. Sometimes we put too much pressure on the guys up front. At the end of the day it’s a team game”.

No. 2 finished the game with just nine completions on 25 attempts. And perhaps he could shoulder some of the blame as he did make some bad throws at times. On two of the sacks he took, he tried to make plays with his feet instead of just throwing the ball away.

Josh Ferguson made a couple plays in the first half but was quiet for the rest of the game. He finished with five total touches for 39 yards from scrimmage. Jon Davis was used more as a running back instead of his natural position of tight end today. He only had one catch compared to four carries for 12  rushing yards.

Junior running back Donovonn Young led all Illini rushers with 13 carries for 58 yards. This aspect of the Illini offense needs to improve down the stretch if they are going to contend for the Big Ten title.

Senior wide receiver Ryan Lankford was the Illini’s leading receiver with three catches for 100 yards and a touchdown. As a whole, the Illini offense finished the day with just 327 total yards. A far cry from the well over 400 yards they gained in each of their first two games.

The defense also played a part in today’s loss. Head coach Tim Beckman said at his post-game press conference that “We need to tackle better. It all boils down to tackling and tackling properly.” The coach didn’t completely blame one side of the ball or the other. But the Illini defense gave up 30 first downs to the Huskies today.

Ultimately, the offense had difficulty moving the ball, trouble protecting it’s quarterback and a hard time finding the end zone. Had Bill Cubit’s offense been able to succeed like they did in the previous two games, this could have been a whole different ball game.

The Huskies proved that they deserve to be the 19th ranked {maybe even higher} team in the country. They also proved that they are one of the best defenses thus far in the FBS. They have only allowed 30 points all season while scoring more than 30 per game at the same time.

The Illini will face even tougher defenses once the Big Ten schedule starts in a couple of weeks. For now, they will have a bye week to rest and reflect. Then they will get back to work and prepare for Miami-Ohio in Champaign on September 28th.

Follow me on Twitter @GabeSalgado82



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