Moving forward following Illinois football’s loss to Ohio State


Tyler Courtney | The Daily Illin

Defensive back Clayton Fedejelem makes a tackle on Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliot during Saturday’s game at Memorial Stadium. Illinois lost 28-3.

By Peter Bailey-Wells, Sports editor

The Illinois seniors couldn’t get it done on the field against No. 2 Ohio State, but after the game, they had a lot to say about their Bill Cubit, their head coach.

Josh Ferguson praised the consistency Cubit could bring to a program that has experienced a lot of recent change.

Mason Monheim said Cubit has gained the respect and trust of players on both sides of the ball.

And Teddy Karras said the first order of business for new AD Paul Kowalcyzk should be to take Cubit’s interim tag off.

None of those players will play a game in Memorial Stadium again — their finale was 28-3 loss to the Buckeyes that Monheim described as “not bittersweet … just bitter.” But they want Cubit as their head coach. And with the emergence of another head coaching availability at the end of this season — with the resignation of Missouri’s Gary Pinkel — there are more than a few around the program who want Cubit’s stability back with the program in 2016.

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Illinois was hanging with Ohio State for much of this game. The home team’s offense was stagnant, but its defense was good. Like, multiple-NFL-players-in-its-starting-lineup-good. It chased after J.T. Barrett all day, but wore down courtesy of Heisman contender Ezekiel Elliot.

This was a game that the Illini had to play perfect in to win, and they didn’t play perfectly, so they didn’t win. The sky did not fall on Memorial Stadium on Saturday: The undefeated, reigning national champion came in and beat a team it was supposed to beat. Nothing more, nothing less.

So now, like the players after the game, it’s time to look forward. It’s time to look forward to Minnesota and Northwestern, which are both quite winnable games for Illinois. Illinois has a better record than the Gophers, both in and out of the conference and Northwestern, which began the season so well, just beat Purdue by seven points Saturday.

That’s the same team that Illinois hung 48 points on last weekend.

All is certainly not lost in Champaign. The Illini lost to a team they were expected to lose to. Two more wins — either one in the regular season and one in a bowl game or two in the regular season — seem very achievable. Many Illinois fans were despondent on social media following Saturday’s loss, but a rush to judgement about this team seems silly.

If anyone can rally this team, it’s Cubit and his seniors. Monheim, Karras, Ferguson, Jihad Ward and Clayton Fejedelem, the list goes on of players who have stood behind Cubit through this wild year. Their support for him has only increased, and Cubit’s confidence in his position has only increased.

While on the podium Saturday afternoon, the head coach recommended that he be the next Illinois head coach. He’s looking forward. His players are looking forward.

And the Illini just lost to Ohio State. So what? That’s not a surprise. So let’s look forward.

Peter is a junior in Media.

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