Illini make progress, still choke from pressure against Cornhuskers

By Tatiania Perry, Columnist

Before ESPN could even send out their game-start alert, Reggie Corbin was in the endzone after a 66-yard run.

In those 48 seconds, the student section was as full as I’ve seen it in my four years.

In 48 seconds, all the doubt fans had on twitter vanished, and for once fans wondered if the Illini had been telling the truth: This year, they are a different team.

These first 48 seconds were more than just a flashy show. The start was the shiny new thing the team and the fans needed to reignite.

In 48 seconds, the 44,512 fans in attendance were at the edge of their seat. No matter who you were rooting for, this would be a great game.

Brandon Peters went on to throw 27 yards to Josh Imatorbhebhe to put Illinois over Nebraska 14-0.

Illinois remained in the lead for what looked like it could be the rest of the game.

And then they choked.

Illinois did what they did best, and they choked.

Not in a major way all at once, but rather very slowly.

For the most part, they capitalized on Nebraska’s weaknesses. Nebraska has one of the worst fumble rates in the NCAA, and the bulk of the points that Illinois was able to get up on the board were from that.

The Illini defense forced four turnovers, to be exact. And those turnovers were the shiny new Illinois that we love to see. However, the defense could not stop the passing game, or a running one for that matter.

Time and time again, it would seem defense-heavy coach Lovie Smith is having trouble getting the team to produce the way he would like them to.

In the post-game press conference, the coach kept repeating the same mantra: “We didn’t make plays when we had the opportunities to.”

I assume he means the missed tackles and the small mechanical errors that are fixable and frustrating to continue to see week after week.

The defense may still have some work to do, but Nate Hobbs, Oluwale Betiku and Jake Hansen did what they had to do and more.

Leaders on the team like Hansen and Dele Harding take losses like this heavier than it would seem the rest of the team would, and the rest of the team takes it pretty hard.

Hansen had little to say during the press conference, and it was clear he wanted to be left alone while Harding regurgitated what everyone had been saying all night.

The defense needs work; the work is done off the field; the Illini are on the brink of a breakthrough, but this loss hurt.

Losing sucks and will always hurt, but at least we can still say our corn is better than theirs, right?


[email protected]