Illinois football to utilize bye week to get healthy

Illinois+wide+receiver+Geronimo+Allison+stretches+out+to+catch+a+pass+in+Saturdays+game+against+Iowa+at+Kinnick+Stadium+in+Iowa+City.+Illinois+lost+20-29.

Tyler Courtney | The Daily Illin

Illinois wide receiver Geronimo Allison stretches out to catch a pass in Saturday’s game against Iowa at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. Illinois lost 20-29.

By Charlotte Carroll, Staff writer

When Geronimo Allison went down during the Illini’s final drive Saturday after attempting to catch a Wes Lunt pass, the Illinois football team’s injury issues reared their ugly head once more.

The team had so many players unavailable that head coach Bill Cubit had some defensive players playing offense. At certain points, Lunt was surprised that so many were in the game.

“I didn’t realize all those guys (played) until you (media) mentioned it,” Lunt said. “(V’Angelo) Bentley, we worked with in camp and Caleb Day we kind of threw him in the mix this week just for an emergency.”

That emergency preparation proved to be necessary, and going into the bye week, Cubit said the team’s greatest focus will be to get healthy and rest after its 29-20 loss to Iowa at Kinnick Stadium.

Illinois needs that rest more than ever with much of its offense on the injury list. The Illini have had to resort to using younger players as of late, but they’re starting to take a beating, too.

Freshman running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn was temporarily knocked out of Saturday’s game in the fourth quarter and fumbled on his first play back on the field.

But Cubit considered the fumble the least of his worries.

“If you get down on the kid at that point there, you end up losing them,” Cubit said. “You can’t afford to lose them. We don’t have that many playmakers right now because of injuries.”

When Vaughn and Allison were sidelined, the Illini’s depth issue was evident.

Wide receivers Mike Dudek and Justin Hardee are still out with injuries: Dudek tore his ACL in practice in the spring, while Hardee broke his foot during the offseason.

The running game is also short and was down to one running back — Henry Enyenihi — when Vaughn went down.

Starter Josh Ferguson is sidelined with a shoulder injury he suffered in Week Five against Nebraska. Running backs Dre Brown and Reggie Corbin are both out for the season due to injuries.

Short-handed at both running back and in the receiving corps, the bye week will give Illinois a chance to refresh. The coaches and players have said the team would like to have players back in action against Wisconsin, especially Allison.

“He’s a really good guy to have lead this receiving group that’s young,” Lunt said. “We just need him here.”

Upping the tempo

Illinois picked up its pace after struggling offensively in the first quarter.

“When our offense is stalling out, we go to that fast tempo,” Lunt said. “Their d-line is really good and we were trying to tire them out a little bit.”

The tempo forced the Hawkeyes to set faster, giving the Illini an edge at first. In the end, however, it was the Illini who tired out. Iowa finished with 478 total yards — 200 passing and 278 rushing — and held possession 10 minutes longer than Illinois.

The Illini finished with 368 yards.

But Cubit was proud of his team’s performance.

“When the opposing coach comes in and tells you how hard your kids played, I’ll take that,” Cubit said.

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@charlottecrrll