2. Wes Lunt may have a future in the NFL, but unless he gets a pro OL in front of him he won’t be anything more than a .500 QB or so in college with meaningless stats. I can appreciate what Cubit and anyone else sees in this guy’s ability to throw the ball, but he is a liability, and a MASSIVE one at that, when his first or second reads are not open and either great athleticism or creative thinking are required to make a play. With the team down by 30, he’s throwing away third-and-6 passes, miles out of play, just to avoid a sack. That’s not just bad football, that’s just bad brainpower. His pitching the ball on a broken third-down play in the fourth quarter was classic, his target short of the first down with defenders around him and no one within 5 strides of himself. Brutal. Frankly, with the way the game is played is at this level, where the ability to move and react quickly are paramount to success and, believe it or not, sustainability, Chayce Crouch is a better option at QB for the Illini at this point on – just as a fellow non-NFL prospect such as Reilly O’Toole was last season.
3. Priority One on the recruiting trail, starting TODAY, is to find power conference-caliber ILBs. I can’t take the disappearing act of Mason Monheim and T.J. Neal any longer once the Illini step away from facing the Little Sisters of the Poor. Look, M2 has had a nice career for someone who, honestly, is physically limited at this level. He doesn’t have the size, speed or on-field strength to be an ILB in the Big Ten, never mind a starting one. That being said, he’s light years better than Neal, who, for some reason, always is touted as this “next star on the horizon.” Why, I’ll never know. He gets blown up by ballcarriers or blown off the ball by OL. Shed a block? Hah, not with either of these two. I realize the DL got handled in this game, and that didn’t help the cause for these guys. But that’s the whole point – Big Ten ILBs or MLBs, quality ones, ain’t disappearing even if the guys in front of them aren’t clearing space. These guys do. All the time. No exceptions.
4. We gotta get some better rules on what determines a catch ANYWHERE on the field. That picture-perfect, 27-yard aerial from Lunt to Marchie Murdock early in the third quarter that would have been the Illini’s second TD and brought them within one score of host North Carolina being ruled an incompletion was ridiculous. Murdock got two feet down, with the ball in tow, even taking a step, before the ball was knocked away. He makes that same play on the sideline, it’s ruled a catch – with no questions asked. The fact this one wasn’t makes no sense, and if the ruling was “by the book,” then the book needs a revision immediately. That being said, for the long-term benefits of the program, maybe it was better it wasn’t. Otherwise, the Illini may have hung around awhile, which would have masked problems that do, and have, existed even longer – perhaps through another bad coaching hire.
5. Though the Illini’s performance wasn’t as bad as the final score would indicate, they were beaten in every facet of the game, negating nice efforts by RB Josh Ferguson (22 carries, 133 yards, TD) and V’Angelo Bentley, who returned three kickoffs for a 28.3 average. Here’s the thing, UNC return specialist Ryan Switzer took one punt back 71 yards and another 85 for a TD, and the Tar Heels had not one, but two guys top 100 yards rushing – QB Marquise Williams and RB Elijah Wood. Heck, Williams, an erratic, if not errant, sort even threw better than Lunt on this day, completing 17 of 24 passes for 203 yards and three TDs. He also hit Switzer right in stride for what should have been a TD longer than half the field, but the receiver dropped it. The Heels went 2-for-2 on FGs; the Illini 0-for-2. Oh, and Cubit got outcoached.
- Jack Kerwin | email@example.com