Daily Illini Sports staff reacts to Illinois’ week 1 disappointment at Indiana

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Photo courtesy of David Craan/Illinois Athletics

Senior quarterback Tommy DeVito runs the ball during the game against Indiana on Friday. The Illini fall against Indiana 23-20.

By Carson Gourdie, Sports Video Editor

Daily Illini Sports: Reacting to Illinois’ blown lead to Hoosiers, bowl hopes

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Chase Brown was running it down the Hoosiers’ throat. The defense line stuffed Indiana’s running game. Indiana quarterback Connor Bazelak was missing his throws. Illinois, despite only leading by a slim margin, looked confident and tougher than the Hoosier squad, and it appeared likely Illinois would only be four wins away from a bowl bid after the game. 

However, while the defense played incredibly for most of the second half, stalled drives, turnovers and a big time goal-line stand by the Hoosiers allowed Tom Allen’s team to stun the Illini 23-20, in a game which may have dealt a serious blow to Illinois’ bowl hopes. 

Big plays killed the Illini in the first half. While Bazelak completed less than half his passes in the first half, big plays over the top put the Hoosiers in scoring position, allowing them to hold a 16-10 lead at the break.

But the defense was on a mission in the second half, and the increased pressure on the Missouri transfer stifled the Indiana offense. Until the Hoosiers’ final offensive possession, where they finished off a 75-yard scoring drive, they had only 70 yards of total offense in the second half. 

The defense stepped up, but the offense slowed down significantly. Illinois fifth year senior quarterback Tommy DeVito made questionable decisions that led to failed drives, and Lunney’s decision to not mix up the play calls on the one-yard-line – electing to run the ball up the middle multiple times – allowed the Hoosiers to keep within striking distance. 

However, despite frustrations with unsportsmanlike calls, a very questionable decision by the referees to not call Brian Hightower’s catch in the 2nd quarter a touchdown, the Illini looked like a Big Ten team. The defensive trench play stifled the Indiana run game and forced constant pressure on the quarterback, and Brown’s ability to remain patient and use his patience in the backfield was encouraging. 

Next up for the Illini is a home game against the Virginia Cavaliers, a program with a fresh head coach, Tony Elliot, but a very effective veteran quarterback Brendan Armstrong. A stat to know: Virginia gave up over 230 yards of rushing a game last season, which could help jumpstart Brown and the offense. 

While it’s only Week 2, a loss to the Cavaliers could all but end bowl hopes for the Illini this season and strip away the momentum the Illini gained early in the Bielema tenure.  

 

@GourdieReport

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