Illini use 2-hour weather delay to relax

By Charlotte Carroll

The Illinois football team didn’t go into the locker room during Saturday’s weather delay and immediately begin talking over what was going wrong. Players and coaches didn’t head over to the indoor facility next door and start going over plays.

Instead, the team turned up the music, watched some football and maintained the relaxation that would carry Illinois to a 42-35 win over Texas State.

According to head coach Tim Beckman, the team used most of the break as downtime. It was only in the last 30 minutes that the team finally re-gathered and talked about adjustments.  

“It’s frustrating, but I think it’s the best thing that could have happened to us,” said quarterback Wes Lunt, who experienced a similar situation when he played at Oklahoma State. “We went over all the stuff on how we’re beating ourselves, we weren’t doing the things we’ve been practicing. Just regrouped and got back together.”

As thunderstorms moved into the area, the delay evacuated Memorial Stadium and kept it empty for almost two hours.

At 3:55 p.m., lightning  postponed the game. Team members headed to the locker rooms, while fans were told to seek shelter and consequently crowded the halls beneath the stands.

At 5:50 p.m., players finally ran back onto the field, greeted by an empty stadium and fireworks. Fans followed, slowly trickling back into the stands.

The game went on.

After that weather delay, Illinois put 36 points on the board.

Before the weather delay, Illinois had only 93 total offensive yards, including Josh Ferguson’s opening 75-yard touchdown. But the Illini would go on to grab 392 yards after the delay.

“We really tightened up,” defensive tackle Austin Teitsma said. “We had a lot more excitement. I thought we were a little all over the place in the beginning. You get a little crazy when you have your jitterbugs going on. But I thought we tightened up and we did the stuff we were supposed to. There’s stuff we need to work on, but we pulled it off.”

Teitsma, who had never been in a weather delay situation, spent the relaxation period with his teammates, listening to a playlist put together by defensive end Joe Fotu and talking with his fellow defensive linemen on what to do when the game finally resumed.For Taylor Barton, who is from Florida, the weather delay was something he was used to. 

He led the defense with 14 tackles, proving he can keep his composure. “As long as you stay loose in the locker room and keep your mind in the right place, you’re good,” Barton said.

The announced attendance for the game was at 41,019, but this only appeared accurate until the weather delay took hold.

When play resumed, Illinois opened the stadium to any and everyone, offering free admission to watch the remainder of the game.

While the delay managed to keep away a good portion of the fans, the energy of the crowd was evident and the Illini utilized it.

“Guys really just got lackadaisical in the beginning,” wide receiver Justin Hardee said. 

“We were going to make adjustments at halftime, but (we) got the early delay. We just had to do what we had to do.”

Charlotte can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @charlottecrrll.