Who Were Those Guys?

Illinois wide receiver A.J. Jenkins celebrates after catching a 13-yard touchdown pass during the second quarter.
So the result was the same as every other Arch Rivalry game in St. Louis (0-fer! Good move, Ron Guenther!). But other than that, this was an about-face from last season. What was the deal with all the crisp tackling, the positional awareness on defense, and the adequate special teams (pointless swinging gate aside)? I haven't seen that since maybe 2007. 
Can new coordinators make that much of a difference? Apparently so – this team was pretty consistent able to do the fundamental actions of football (blocking, tackling, knowing a snap count) that have escaped the experienced squads of the last two years. Paul Petrino and Vic Koenning should drink for free at Jupiter's this week.
The playcalling on both sides was a little stale – on defense, that's more than excusable, considering they were trotting out guys who up until last week were running backs – and offensively, it was difficult to tell if that was by design (i.e., they could do more, but kept it simple for Scheelhaase) or by necessity (they haven't gotten additional packages installed), but the first series was a clinic in how to introduce a freshman quarterback to D-I football. And as for Scheelhaase himself, the decisions were mostly okay – it was the execution that was off. It'd be pretty difficult not to see the upside of this kid.
There's still a lot of room for improvement. They've gotta keep #2 from getting beaten up (We Must Protect This Scheelhaase? No?). Somebody needs to become a big play threat on offense – Fayson, perhaps – because while the 1-2 punch of Leshoure and Ford is effective, I think a lot of teams are going to follow Mizzou's blueprint and slowly load up the box and dare us to pass.
But I was pleasantly surprised. I'm no longer fearing a loss to SIU or NIU (knocking on wood), and am entertaining hopes that we can at least be a scrappy team that beats you up (Nate Bussey, ladies and gentlemen!), which I don't know that we've been since the '90s. Count me in.

3 thoughts on “Who Were Those Guys?

  1. It was honestly one of the absolute worst football games I’ve ever seen. Think Bears o-line, but waaaay worse. Some baffling QB decisions (lots of dump passes and check downs. The TE dropped roughly 17 passes and fumbled two that he did manage to catch. Two missed FGs. Just about the worst possible debut for Turner Gill (who I still support).Two wins, three tops.

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