Shortly after this outcome, stories started emanating about wiping away the “interim” tag and extending Bill Cubit as head coach. Each passing word had me wondering if it was time to go all Wayne Brady on any who authored them. Seriously, are you EFFIN kidding? Yeah, Cubit comes across like a decent guy in press conferences, and he’s made himself part of the Illini community in a very fatherly, welcoming way. But, get real – if you hope to be a viable entity in what now is the best conference in college football. His dime-store, pop-gun offensive philosophy about stretching the field horizontally to take limited strides vertically is ridiculous, and, for those who can’t seem to grasp, he is NOT going to change on that philosophy. This is who Cubit is, and by genetic proxy, it is who his son/assistant coach/right-hand mand, Ryan, is, too. It is who the elder Cubit has been for decades … and, newsflash, it doesn’t work. Not over the long haul, and, frankly, it’s far too dangerous for the insanely small returns it yields in the short term. Frankly, it would be easy to rip QB Wes Lunt’s lack of athleticism and point to that as a major flaw with the Illini and why they’re only 5-5 at this point, but the fact of the matter is, here’s a kid whose arm screams taking shots downfield all game and the Cubits have him primarily tossing dump-offs to Josh Ferguson or 1-yard “outs” on third-and-fours. People, forget the folksy and think football. The Illini have no business re-upping with Cubit unless the goal is to remain mediocre.
2. Gotta run in this league
The Buckeyes handed off the ball 50 times and passed it 25. The Illini did almost the opposite, going 25 rush to 47 pass. It’s pretty simple math and the equation never fails in the Big Ten – you have to be able to run the ball if you hope to be successful in it. The Illini are not lacking for talent among their ballcarriers. Ferguson is a top-flight talent, and freshman Ke’Shawn Vaughn was coming off a 180-yard game the week before … but the Cubits called six carries for him in this one? Puh-leeze. In a game like this, the Illini’s running stats always look terrible because of Lunt being a statue and getting sacked, and the Cubits calling for a run when it’s totally set up to fail. It’s astounding to watch. Like “no feel” for what is going on at all. The Illini will pass and pass and pass, and fail, fail, fail … until, boom, finally hitting one longer than 9 yards and suddenly think they uncovered an opponents’ weakness – and then really start passing. The storyline is old and tired, and not changing. Move to another one, please.
3. Gotta defend in this league
Pretty amazing when you have four guys – FS Clayton Fejedelem, LBs T.J. Neal and Mason Monheim, and DE Carroll Phillips – register double-digit tackle numbers and you still give up 440 yards to the opposition, including a whopping 283 on the ground. Granted, you’re facing a top-5 team with a Heisman talent at RB in Ezekiel Elliott, but surrendering 5.7 yards per pop when you’re explicitly geared up to stop the run game? Uh, that’s not good … and when your offense is doing little to aid the effort, great – not good – is required to get the job done.
4. Gotta give Buckeyes credit
For all the drama and lackluster play Ohio State and their diehard fans have endured this season, the Buckeyes do remain an elite entity, capable of rolling any opponent at a moment’s notice. If anything, they got about the best Illinois had to offer, given talent level and coaching, and they just kinda took care of business in pretty methodical, albeit boring, fashion. Elliott was awesome, QB J.T. Barrett was reasonably effective and the defense was dominant. Sounds like a like recipe for success, and it is – even when Ohio State isn’t playing lights-out ball.
5. Gotta recognize
Kinda tough to top Ohio State’s classic silver-white-silver road getup on gameday, but at least the Illini looked sharp, courtesy of their orange-blue-orange attire that should be the home staple. One thing, though, and, sure, the tip of the cap to veterans is nice … but could we do something other than a strange American flag motif in the “I” on the helmet next time? Maybe patches sewn onto the jerseys instead, or even – gulp – going with the flag colors (hello, red, white and blue) solely on the uniform instead of the school colors. Or, perhaps, the “I” on one side of the helmet and an American flag on the other. Not sure, really … but, honestly, the current deal just looks forced and cheesy – doing service to neither the school nor its intent, which is to honor vets.
- Jack Kerwin | email@example.com