Grading the Illinois football team after its loss to Western Michigan


Austin Yattoni

Illinois head coach Lovie Smith walks down the sideline during the game agaisnt Western Michigan at Memorial Stadium on September 17. The Illini lost 34-10. Lovie has lost two of his first three games as head coach of Illinois.

By The Daily Illini sports staff

The Daily Illini football writers graded each facet of the Illinois football team’s 34-10 loss to Western Michigan on Saturday. The Illini offense, defense, special teams and coaching were graded.

Offense: D

Early on, it looked like it might be a career game for Wes Lunt. In the first quarter, he went 10-for-13 pass for 98 yards. He was throwing down the field, and connecting with many of his receivers. But the running game was nonexistent, with Illinois only rushing for three yards on the day.

Lunt had a solid game on paper – 312 yards, while going 29-for-42 with one touchdown and one interception – but in reality, the Illini played right into Western Michigan’s game plan. The Broncos stacked the box with one extra player, and dared Lunt to beat them. Which was something he wasn’t able to do. Whether it was because the receivers didn’t make catches or because Lunt wasn’t able to connect on the big throws, the Illini gave the Broncos no reason to break out of their run-stopping defense. Lunt’s only touchdown of the day came on a flea flicker that the entire Broncos defense bit on.

The Illini only rushed the ball 10 times between Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Kendrick Foster, who both had over 150 yards rushing on the season. The Illini were not a threat on the ground at all Saturday.

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Defense: C

Just like Lunt, the defense gave fans a lot of hope early on. The Illini’s first defensive stand resulted in two sacks and an incompletion that probably should have been picked off.

But after that first drive, the defense gave up 21 unanswered points, and the second quarter had barely started. They picked it back up as a unit, limiting the Broncos to only 13 points for the rest of the game, but they did not help the offense at all.

It was the second game in a row that the defense did not force a single turnover. That just doesn’t work in a Lovie Smith- led defense.

Heading into the game, the big threat on the Broncos seemed to be wide receiver Corey Davis, and while Davis did have a good game – four receptions for 97 yards – the real weapon for the Broncos was their run game. Running back Jamauri Bogan contributed 189 of the Broncos’ 308 rushing yards. All four touchdowns from the Broncos came on the ground.

 Special teams: C-

Another week, another game without starting punter Ryan Frain. He was involved in a bike accident before the game last week against North Carolina, and sat again this week. Back up David Reisner took his place for the second week in a row, and he was just as inconsistent in this outing. He punted the ball eight times, averaging a distance of 40.6 yards. His longest travel was 61 yards after a fortunate bounce.

The Broncos took the first kickoff back to about the 50 yard line, but after that there was nothing special. Every punt was either a fair catch or went out of bounds, and the Illini only kicked off one more time after that.

Foster provided a little bit of a spark on his kick returns, returning five for 131 yards, with his longest at 35 yards.

 Coaching: C+

Linebacker Hardy Nickerson said it best after the game.

“Everything that they did today, we saw it on the film,” Nickerson said. “It really just came down to execution. They made more plays than we did. Point blank.”

The Illini coaches were really open with explaining what Western Michigan was good at, and what their focuses would be during the game, but Illinois did not show up on the field. The players were prepared properly for this game, but when they don’t make the plays they are supposed to, there is not much more the coaches can do.

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