Column | Offensive struggles continue into Big Ten play for Illini football

Quarterback+Artur+Sitkowski+attempts+to+throw+the+ball+during+the+game+against+Wisconsin+on+Oct.+9+during+Homecoming+Weekend.+Illini+football+continues+to+struggle+with+their+offensive+line.++

Ryan Ash

Quarterback Artur Sitkowski attempts to throw the ball during the game against Wisconsin on Oct. 9 during Homecoming Weekend. Illini football continues to struggle with their offensive line.

By Will Payne, Assistant Sports Editor

If it wasn’t clear enough already, the first year of the Bret Bielema experience has been one of struggle and rebuilding. Illinois put up a stinker on Saturday during their homecoming game, as they lost 24-0 to Wisconsin. The Illini quarterbacks threw for a measly 63 yards and 26 yards from the rushing game did not help the home team’s cause whatsoever.

Obviously going from playing the Charlotte 49ers to the Wisconsin Badgers, nobody expected the Illini to put up a similar performance. But it was an all-around offensive let down at Memorial Stadium.

Everyone on this offense should be held accountable for these performances, and all eyes from the Illini faithful are on the future of the quarterback situation. Earlier in the season, Bielema said no player will lose their starting position strictly due to a medical situation.

However, after Brandon Peters came off the field on Saturday due to an unnamed medical reason, questions are being asked about who will be under center against Penn State. Bielema knows that the quarterback position has been a question mark all throughout his tenure, but he’ll have a bye week to decide before Illinois’ next game.

“In the infancy of this program, I knew the quarterback position was going to be one of high interest, and obviously you have a huge effect but also one of my biggest concerns just because we are dealing with a lot of unknowns there,” Bielema said. “Offensively, the people around it then, the quarterback is greatly affected by the people around them.”

When asked about the potential of a two-quarterback system, Bielema seemed to shoot down the possibility of this immediately. Whichever quarterback he chooses, whether it’s Peters or Sitkowski, will stay in for the entirety of Illinois’ next game.

“Never really experienced it,” said Bielema. “In the system that we’ve guided to, what we’ve recruited to and how we’re trying to build for the future, never say never, but it’s just not a path we would go down. The only reason we’ve used two quarterbacks in the game was because of injury.”

Even with Peters’ struggles, Sitkowski arguably brings less to the table than the fifth-year senior. Sitkwoski threw 8/27 for 55 yards after Peters went down with the injury, as he started off the game 0/12 passing.

After the 257 yard, two touchdown performance against Charlotte, Chase Brown assumed the load of the carries against Wisconsin, but he did not see the same positive result. Brown had 8 carries for 35 yards, while Josh McCray had a tough day as well, amassing 3 carries for 1 yard. 

Despite attempting to be a team that runs the ball and plays strong defense, it seems as though Illinois lacks an identity. Don’t get me wrong, Wisconsin is a strong college football team, their record early on in the season is quite misleading of their talent level.

Yet, for Illinois to come out to Memorial Stadium on Homecoming Weekend and not put a single point on the scoreboard should send shivers down Bielema’s back ahead of their next game at Beaver Stadium.

 

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