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That was the best loss that the Illini have had all year

Illinois+assistant+coach+Garrick+McGee+answers+questions+at+a+press+conference+at+Memorial+Stadium+this+Monday.
Illinois assistant coach Garrick McGee answers questions at a press conference at Memorial Stadium this Monday.

Illinois assistant coach Garrick McGee answers questions at a press conference at Memorial Stadium this Monday.

Brian Bauer

Brian Bauer

Illinois assistant coach Garrick McGee answers questions at a press conference at Memorial Stadium this Monday.

By Cole Henke, Sports editor

I feel like I have written the same thing over and over again this year: Illinois fans need to persevere through the next couple years. Then the payoff will finally come.

But after the South Florida and Nebraska games, I started to have a little doubt in what I was preaching. The Illini just kept getting absolutely smacked, and it seemed like the end was nowhere in sight.

But then, my optimism was restored when Illinois took on Iowa at Kinnick Stadium.

Let me be clear: The Illini still got smacked. But I had fun watching them get smacked.

The Illini offense was exciting during the first half, the defense played pretty well against Iowa’s offense and the running backs broke free for several long runs. If they can improve on the offense they had in the first half against Iowa, this will be a fun team. It may not be a good team, but it will be fun. That will make it that much easier to wait until the future.

But be wary, Illini fans. There are bound to be multiple downturns. However, if the Iowa game was any indicator, Illinois is going to try and be fun, and that might be all they need.

That fun, free-slinging offense may result in some unnecessary turnovers, but that is the way Illinois needs to play if it’s going to beat Rutgers this weekend. As I am writing this, Illinois is a three-point favorite. This will almost definitely be the last time the Illini are favored all year.

Besides the turnovers, Illinois is better in every way when it plays offense like it did against Iowa.

But, more than anything, this new offense showed off exactly how good their receivers are. That was easily the best part of this game. It was a crime that I started to forget how good Malik Turner and Mike Dudek were. Carmoni Green, a freshman playing in his second career game, led the team in receptions. Shoot, even Chayce Crouch, who everybody thought was buried in the depth chart, got a reception, and it was awesome.

That first half was fun, it’s as simple as that. It showcased what the freshmen can and will do, while reminding everyone that the established talent on the team is still great.

I swear, the only thing that is missing from this team is a quarterback who can put them over the edge. I was impressed with Jeff George Jr. during that first half, but he still turned the ball over too much. The Illinois offense had more yards than Iowa did on the day, but due to those four turnovers George had, Illinois could not put many points on the board.

I am excited to see the Illini play against a beatable opponent and run the same style of offense I saw last week. It will be fun and it will make the wait for the future that Lovie is promising that much more bearable.

@cole_Henke

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