Wait – Really?

When it comes to Illinois football, the surprises are almost always bad. Like this. Or this. Or this. Even recent notable upsets, like winning at OSU in ’07, were cases of an already good team performing a little better than was thought possible or likely. I can’t remember anything like yesterday – where a team we thought might be terrible dumptrucked an opponent I expected to roll into Memorial Stadium and hang half a hundred.

And I suppose that’s the key – upsets can be fluky. There was nothing fluky about what Illinois did to Cincinnati yesterday. Over 500 yards of offense. No turnovers for the first time in 24 games. Converting 3rd and 13. Converting 3rd and 19. But beyond the numbers, there was the overriding feeling of the tables being turned – when we went play-action out of a full house backfield on 3rd and 2 and turned it into a 23-yard TD completion, I had a moment of “Those are the types of plays that get run on us, not by us, what is happening?” It was pretty great fantastically awesome.

What does it all mean? I dunno. Cincinnati looked like a seriously flawed team even before they lost Munchie Legaux. It’s possible that the only true takeaway from all of this is that Purdue is truly terrible. Washington next Saturday should make for a much stiffer, more polished test. But all of a sudden, that game looks like an opportunity to be seized – positive momentum heading into a game at Soldier Field against a ranked opponent? After the Huskies took it to Boise State in their opener, my goal for Chicago Homecoming was “Let’s not completely embarrass ourselves in front of the entire city.” Now? Hey, maybe we’ve got another good surprise in store.

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