Illinois football prepared to play with Crouch under center

Illinois+quarterback+Chayce+Crouch+runs+for+a+touchdown+in+the+game+against+Purdue+at+Memorial+Stadium+on+October+8.+The+Illini+lost+34-31.

Quentin Shaw

Illinois quarterback Chayce Crouch runs for a touchdown in the game against Purdue at Memorial Stadium on October 8. The Illini lost 34-31.

By Joey Figueroa , Staff Writer

Illinois football lost in overtime to Purdue on Saturday, and adding to the excitement was backup Chayce Crouch who filled in for an injured Wes Lunt. The sophomore quarterback piled up 279 total yards and put the Illini in a position to win until his critical fumble in overtime.

With Lunt’s status for Saturday’s game at Rutgers still up in the air, Illinois is prepared to roll with Crouch receiving the snaps under center this weekend.

Despite Crouch’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and game-deciding fumble on Saturday, head coach Lovie Smith was impressed with what the dynamic play-caller offered.

“His overall play running the offense, running the ball, breaking tackles and passing the football was outstanding,” Smith said.

Crouch’s 137 rushing yards against Purdue were the fourth-most in a single game by an Illinois quarterback in program history. His ability to run the read-option opened up the team’s running game, which is something that Lunt usually cannot offer.

Offensive coordinator Garrick McGee liked the passion that Crouch played with, especially when getting out of the pocket.

“He’s one of those guys that’ll bang into people and keep on ticking,” McGee said.

However, McGee noticed that Crouch needs to learn to better protect himself in the open field, as is often the case for young, mobile quarterbacks.

“I like that he’s a willing, physical runner, but you also have to be smart enough to keep yourself healthy,” McGee said. “The run in the end zone where he jumped over and flipped — he could’ve just ran outside and went in standing up. I tell him, ‘Your mother doesn’t like those types of touchdowns at all.”’

Locker room talk

Since Sunday night’s presidential debate, much has been made of “locker room talk” and what constitutes it.

Many professional athletes took to Twitter to clarify just what goes on in locker room environments, and senior linebacker Hardy Nickerson addressed the topic as well.

Nickerson said the Illinois locker room is a place to have fun, crack jokes and sometimes even watch movies or sporting events. To Nickerson, the type of locker room conversation portrayed Sunday night has no place in the type of environment the Illini want to create.

“From what I heard in the debate, locker room talk never is about sexual assaults or things like that,” Nickerson said. “Those things are never taken lightly. I’ve never been in a locker room where that was talked about, but if it was talked about, I would be sure to step in in that situation.”

Lovie shows frustration 

Illinois football has hit a considerable rough patch in Lovie Smith’s first season at the helm, losing four-straight contests.

In his three decades as a coach, Smith has built his reputation around his cool, level-headed demeanor. For the first time this season, though, Smith showed some visible frustration when he was asked if he takes it too easy on the Illini in regards to their issues with penalties.

“Are you freakin’ kidding me?” Smith said. “You think I’m being too lax with our football team — I’m freakin’ going out there every day and just letting them do what they want to do? Absolutely not.”

The Illini picked up three unsportsmanlike penalties Saturday, each costing them 15 yards. Smith expressed concern over Illinois’ inability to cut down on its penalties.

“We put ourselves in that position, and we can’t do it,” Smith said.

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