The Daily Illini

Illini offense flatlines against Indiana

Illinois+wide+receiver+Trenard+Davis+leaps+for+a+catch+during+the+game+against+Indiana+on+Saturday%2C+Nov+11.+The+Illni+trail+0-14+at+half.
Illinois wide receiver Trenard Davis leaps for a catch during the game against Indiana on Saturday, Nov 11. The Illni trail 0-14 at half.

Illinois wide receiver Trenard Davis leaps for a catch during the game against Indiana on Saturday, Nov 11. The Illni trail 0-14 at half.

Quentin Shaw

Quentin Shaw

Illinois wide receiver Trenard Davis leaps for a catch during the game against Indiana on Saturday, Nov 11. The Illni trail 0-14 at half.

By Jacob Diaz, Staff writer

The Illini’s defense kept the the team in the game after a poor first half showing from the offense, but the Illini couldn’t find enough late to down the Hoosiers, losing 24-14. The loss brings Illinois’ conference record to 0-7 this season, and 2-8 overall.

With some of its injured players returning to the field, the defense once again did enough to keep Illinois in the game through three quarters, but the offense failed to capitalize on it.

On the first drive of the fourth quarter, wide receiver Ricky Smalling made a catch on a jump ball, and the 25-yard gain energized the Illini to drive the ball down the field.

The drive culminated in a crucial red-zone third down. Quarterback Jeff George Jr. swung a bubble screen to Caleb Reams, who broke through two tackles, dove, and crossed the goal line to bring the Illini within three.

But the Illini couldn’t stop the Hoosiers from scoring on a drive with less than six minutes left in the game, and Indiana’s Simmie Cobbs Jr. all but put the game away with his touchdown.

“In the second half there was an opportunity there,” head coach Lovie Smith said. “We let them score late on a slant route that really hurt us. It was a one-score game.”

Senior defensive back Jaylen Dunlap made his first career interception as the Illini defense had an up-and-down performance against the Hoosiers’ passing attack. The Illini forced nine Hoosier punts, but remained vulnerable over the middle of the field, giving up 289 yards through the air.

“Defensively we had our moments,” Smith said. “Played well at times. But welet in the touchdown before the half and the last touchdown when it was a tight game. Those were disappointing.”

The Illinois offense hit a new low in the first half, picking up just 72 yards and punting on all seven possessions of the half. With Cam Thomas injured, Jeff George Jr. took over under center again. He avoided turning the ball over, but finished the half four for eight on passes. Between losses from penalties, sacks and tackles for losses, the Illini could barely string two first downs together, let alone an entire drive. Illinois finished with 10 first downs, and punter Blake Hayes finished with 11 punts.

“It’s a tough duty to win when you play offensive ball like that,” Smith said. “We’re not a good football team right now. It’s as simple as that.”

In the end, the Indiana team didn’t even have to worry about Illinois taking advantage of failed fourth down conversions, because it completed both of its first half fourth down conversions, and both of those drives turned into touchdowns.

The Illini offensive line couldn’t keep George on his feet, and the Hoosiers sacked him 7 times throughout the game, forcing a key fumble with the Illini driving down the field in the fourth quarter.

The fumble was followed by two late interceptions by George as Illinois saw the game slip through their fingers yet again in the fourth quarter.

“That’s the same song we’ve been singing the past couple of games,” George said. “We’re in it all the way until the end and we either make mistakes or we kill ourselves, or we just don’t make play when we need to.”

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@Jacob_Diaz31

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