The Road Less Traveled

So that was disappointing. The first loss of the year always is, especially when you lose to a team that goes 1-4 passing the football. There’s two ways to go from here:

Option 1:
You can essentially, for lack of a better term, bail. Because the way you see it, this was a golden opportunity to not only beat Ohio State at home (something we haven’t done since 1991) but to go 7-0 (something that’s happened in almost none of our lifetimes), and we blew it. We lost to an Ohio State team that was so undermanned and so gun-shy, they didn’t attempt a pass until the 2nd quarter and didn’t complete one til the 4th. Our coach bungled an end-of-game situation that even the most novice Madden player could handle, prematurely ending our chances. Our offense was exposed against the first real defense we’ve seen. Our defense was exposed as weak against the run. Now that we’re facing the grown-up portion of the schedule, we’ll revert to also-ran status.

It’s understandable if you go this way. Time and time again over the last 20 years, a tough loss has led to an implosion. Mentally weak teams get punched in the mouth and then forget how to punch back at all. This is how you avoid going to bowl games in consecutive seasons, because difficult losses are a guarantee. But if you think this is the typical on-field result, at this point, it’s become the typical in-the-stands response, as well.

Option 2:
You can adjust your probably unjustifiably high expectations and keep going. You can recognize that, while definitely flawed, Ohio State is the bizarro version of every team we’ve played so far this year: run first, run second on offense; strong line and fast secondary on defense. Whether that means
  • Illinois can’t stop the run and is offensively limited
  • Just wasn’t ready for this combination after 6 games of the opposite, or
  • A combination of the two
Those things are all a whole lot different than if this had been a home collapse against a team like IU or Minnesota. We’ve got flaws – it’s something you knew before the first game, either intentionally or unintentionally forgot over the next six, and are just now realizing again. And because we didn’t schedule like jackasses this year, we’re still 6-1, and of our remaining five games, all but one can be considered winnable.

You were infuriated by Zook passing up the FG, until the postgame revealed that Paul Petrino essentially said “I got this, let’s do it” and Zook did exactly what we’ve all been begging him to do for years and deferred to his coordinator.

Option 1 is the beaten path. I’m taking Option 2. Because I’ve enjoyed watching this team work hard, and I’m not ready to cash in my enthusiasm on Nathan Scheelhaase, Donovonn Young, and Whitney Mercilus. They feel different than the teams that packed it in when times got tough. If they can break the football mold, I’m going to attempt to break the football fan one – the one that pulls the ripcord at the first sign of trouble.

Of course, if we lose to Purdue next weekend……
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