A big win for Illinois football comes with a small margin of defeat
September 29, 2016
Former Illinois wide receiver Geronimo Allison was kneeling in the end zone, head lifted toward the darkening sky and arms outstretched with the football clutched in his right hand.
His teammates ran to him, hugged him while he was still in the moment, lifted him off his knees and then all ran to the sidelines.
He looked like the “Christ the Redeemer” statue. An Illini savior and a glimpse of hope in the bleak and confusing year that was the 2015 season: It’s the most iconic image of on the field performances from that season.
With that catch, Illinois and former head coach Bill Cubit obtained a standout win that many predicted would be the beginning for an impossible season.
If the Illini could beat the Cornhuskers for the first time since 1924, maybe Illinois could beat Iowa on the road the following game.
Maybe the Illini could get the six wins and earn a bowl berth in a season flanked by uncertainty. Maybe the catch could even save Cubit’s job.
Allison’s touchdown put all those thoughts into the minds of lllini fans. It didn’t match the road win against Ohio State in 2007, but it was a small victory.
Illinois lost the following three games, not winning until over a month later at Purdue.
The team finished the season with a loss to “the team up north” at Soldier Field on the morning Cubit learned he kept his job. Months later, he was fired.
This year, the hope is gone and defeat has basically been admitted by fans before the game against Nebraska has even started.
While head coach Lovie Smith and his players were optimistic at Monday’s press conference, the loss seems inevitable.
No. 15 Nebraska is undefeated.
Winning at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska, is hard.
Winning after two consecutive losses is even harder for Illinois.
The week off likely helped clear players’ minds, and came at an optimum start before the grind of Big Ten play.
A win won’t happen, but Illinois just needs to stick with Nebraska and not let the loss get away from them early or late.
That sounds counterintuitive, but a victory in Lincoln won’t be the “W” on the stats sheet.
And while they might remain competitive, I doubt there will be an angel in the end zone for the Illini this time around.
Charlotte is a senior in Media.