Illinois looks sloppy
in blowout victory
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[SEPT. 8, 2003]
gained their first win of the year in a 49-22 victory over ISU, but
the feeling in the press box was anything but euphoric. Illinois
looked ready to roll in the first quarter, moving out to a 21-0 lead
despite yet another unbelievably bad officiating call that took
either two or seven points off the board. However, from the second
quarter on, the Redbirds of Illinois State looked like the more
focused team. Illinois' defense was shredded by the ISU passing
game, and all of positive vibes this writer felt after the Missouri
Illinois now faces a pair of Pac-10
opponents, and the Illini will have to fight and claw to even split
these games. Saturday's game at UCLA in the Rose Bowl is the first
of the two games and can be seen on ABC-TV at 7 p.m. Then, on Sept.
20, Illinois returns to host at very talented California team --
game time has not yet been determined. Listed below are five
highlights from Saturday and five things that need to change in a
hurry if Illinois wants to avoid the 1-3 start they experienced last
1. The running backs at Illinois --
Mark it down: E.B. Halsey is a superstar in the making! I love this
freshman from New Jersey. Freshman Pierre Thomas looked great in the
fourth quarter as well. This longtime soft spot in the Illinois
offense is starting to look very much like a team strength.
2. The play of QB Jon Beutjer -- I
really hope the NCAA finds some integrity and gives this kid a sixth
season next year (if he was playing for Michigan or Ohio State, it
would have been given months ago). Beutjer looks awesome early and
hasn't made the stupid mistakes that plagued him at times last
season. I am so glad we have had no Dustin Ward sightings.
3. The kicking of John Gockman -- This
kid doesn't seem to miss (knock on wood). I feel really good when he
is kicking field goals.
4. The inspiration of receiver Mark
Kornfeld -- Couldn't cut it as a quarterback or cornerback, so this
coach's kid catches on with the thin receiving corps, and all he has
done is make great catch after great catch. Reminds me of former
Chicago Bear receiver Tom Waddle -- limited talent, all heart. I'd
take five more just like him.
5. The much better special teams play
-- Illinois blocked a field goal and returned it for a touchdown.
Better than the breakdowns against the Tigers, but much work is
still to be done.
[to top of second column in
for this year
1. Illinois needs to find a pass rush
-- Illinois couldn't get to Souza most of the day, and that must
change if Illinois wants to stop the pass-happy California teams
they play the next two weeks. Senior Mike O'Brien's torn ACL doesn't
help either. Senior Derrick Strong has to step up.
2. Illinois needs to find a pass
defense -- Could somebody please teach Christian Morton how to
defend the pass? It breaks my heart to see so much potential wasted.
I'm scared to death what we are going to see the next two Saturdays
against the Bruins and the Bears.
3. Illinois needs Steve Weatherford
punting -- I saw all I needed to see from Matt Minnes in St. Louis.
Weatherford gets the job in my book.
4. Illinois needs the ball in E.B.
Halsey's hands -- He is the real deal. Get the kid the rock and
watch Illinois roll!
5. Illinois must not commit turnovers
-- If Illinois doesn't turn over the ball against Missouri, they win
by two touchdowns. If the Illini can't hold onto it against UCLA and
California, they will once again start 1-3 and make the dream of a
bowl game pretty far-fetched.
Bottom line: Illinois must get better
quick. Ron Turner has to be at his best. I love coach Turner, but
sometimes he outsmarts himself and gets too creative. Stick to the
game plan and Illinois might have a chance at a successful
major kudos to the ISU football team. I thought they played really
well Saturday and showed a real desire to play hard for all four
quarters. Coach Denver Johnson and crew should feel real good about
the efforts shown on Saturday and the momentum they should have
heading into the rest of their season. Congrats to the Redbirds (I
like these birds a whole lot more than the other birds in the other