By Tony Hooker
Is everyone as excited as I am about Illinois football making its return this Friday? My fandom knows no boundaries as every year, and I mean every year since I went to my first Illini game in 1972, my heart has been filled with hope, even when the logic, stats and such in my head told me to check my expectations. I know that being an Illini fan is a kick to the nether regions, nine times out of ten, but that tenth one makes it oh, so special. I really think that if we can avoid injuries, we can compete in the Big Ten West this season. What that will look like remains to be seen, but going to Camp Randall Stadium on the 23rd and competing with the Badgers would say a lot. They’re going to be out for revenge after our improbable come from behind win and I’m not guaranteeing victory, but 23.5 points, which is what the spread is currently, seems like too much. At any rate, this is an experienced team with some decent playmakers on both sides of the ball, and if our D line can generate a pass rush, I think we can be good.
Speaking of football
Did anyone watch the Bears game against Carolina this past Sunday? I think Coach Nagy has a bright future, but he’s got to do a better job of managing the clock or it will cost the team a win or two. The bears forced a punt and got the ball back with a seven-point lead and 6:30 minutes left in the game. Running back David Montgomery has been pretty effective all day, so the play here is to run the ball and milk as much clock as he possibly can before punting it back to the Panthers if you don’t earn a first down. After using just this strategy to get an initial first down, Nagy and the offensive staff got cute and threw a pass on first and ten, stopping the clock. Now, behind the sticks at second and ten, they felt compelled to throw another pass on second and ten, which gained eight yards. Instead of milking as much clock as possible by running Montgomery, they again passed and again it fell incomplete, stopping the clock once again and they were forced to punt, with around 5 minutes left. If they had made the correct football call and run the ball, they would have been punting with about two minutes left, if they had to punt at all. The defense then held and a Carolina receiver nearly made an amazing one-handed catch on fourth down, and incredibly, Nagy and the offense passed again, and were forced to punt a second time. Luckily, a Bears DB intercepted a Panther pass and the Bears were able to salt away a road win, but it shouldn’t have been that close.
High School Football
Are you ready for some Blue Devil football?
Incredibly, if things go as planned, we’ll be swapping cards and candy with our sweethearts if and when football gets started this February. The average monthly temperature in February is a balmy 26 degrees, so I might be looking to buy one of those Milwaukee coats that have heaters installed in them, or I might be doing my coverage from the Press box rather than the sidelines. Brr. At any rate, freeze ball is better than no ball, right?