I Like Wins. Wins Are My Favorite. September 16, 2012
I am a fan of a football team that lost 18 games in a row at one point in the late 90′s. Big Ten opponents, non-conference opponents – 18 straight losses.
Within the last 10 years, my team won eight games in four years at one point. Over those four years my team was 2-30 in the Big Ten. Two wins and THIRTY losses.
From 1995 to 2009, my team went to three bowl games. Three. Only three times in 15 years did my team get six wins. The other twelve seasons, we Illini fans were home for the holidays.
So I have learned to never take a win for granted. Even against Charleston Southern, an FCS team with their own burgeoning losing streak. A win is a win is a win. Sure, we might not be able to take much from this game – it’s nearly impossible to tell if Justin Hardee’s eye-opening receiver stats are 100% a poor secondary with no coverage skills or if this kid really might make some noise during the Big Ten season – but we can take the win. A shutout win, thank you very much. With each mile of the drive home, I felt better and better about this dominating performance.
And I swear it only had a little to do with the Kendrick Nunn commitment. More on that tomorrow.
+ First things first. I have to get this off my chest. About the whole usher thing…
In case you didn’t listen to the From The Stands, it wasn’t a From The Stands this week. Because I got kicked out of the stands during the school song after the game.
If you’ve ever been to a game at Memorial Stadium you probably know this. Once the final whistle blows, EVENT STAFF is obsessed with clearing the stands. It feels like C.O. Daniel’s at 1:01 am in 1993. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.
I get that the game is over, and their job is to clear the stands. But do they really have to CLEAR THE STANDS? As in, send ushers through to groups of people who are standing and chatting and say “let’s go – time to leave”? I mean, they did a sweep of the West Balcony today not even five minutes after the final horn.
I totally regret deleting that first recording I made. I walked down to the front row to record my From The Stands and waited for the band to finish Illinois Loyalty (which they play as the team leaves the field). Once they started the Alma Mater, I hit record and started talking about the game with some background music. And before Alma Mater was finished, “HEY, YOU, LET’S GO! YOU HAVE TO LEAVE!” It’s a white-jacket EVENT STAFF usher yelling from the concession area. Nice to meet you too, sir. He dispatched a green-jacket EVENT STAFF to sweep me out.
I went up to the concession area to watch. Band still in the stands. Charleston Southern team meeting at the 50. Grad assistants and media still walking towards the tunnel. And green-jacketed ushers going from group to group in the balcony, telling them to leave. 15 minutes after the game and two or three people still lingering? I can see a polite “we need to get the cleaning crews in here – would you folks mind moving your conversation out to the tailgate lot?” Band playing the Alma Mater and HEY YOU LET’S GO? Ridiculous and embarrassing.
Tim Beckman is trying to build a program. Mike Thomas has talked at length about improving the game day experience within Memorial Stadium. And EVENT STAFF wants you to stop mid “great game, wasn’t it?” postgame conversation so he won’t miss Judy Fraser doing the weather.
(Does Judy Fraser still do the weather? Good God, why did I have to drag Judy Fraser into this? Talk about embarrassing.)
To the game:
+ The Mason Monheim & Justin Hardee game. That’s how this one goes into my memory banks. Sorry Reilly, it was great to see you finally show the fans that you can accurately deliver the ball, but I already wrote about that in Rantoul 13 months ago (it was some “accuracy, not arm strength, is his forte” post that I’m too lazy to go find and link). Tonight it’s time to write about Monheim and Hardee.
Every Illini linebacker needs a nickname. Bad News Brown. R-BOB-K (Vic Koenning called Houston Bates a “Rolling Ball Of Butcher Knives”). Since Monheim is likely going to be talked about for four full years, I already have a nickname for him. I stole it from a message board friend. Thanks to IlliniThunder (I can’t use his real name, you know), Mason will now be known as the Monheim Steamroller. And by November, you won’t even remember that I stole that from someone and you’ll all be thinking how clever Robert is. And then I’ll tweet something like “Tiptoe Mike LaTulip”. And you’ll remember.
I asked on Twitter if Monheim was being talked about on the broadcast because my section was certainly talking about him. And I received several “J Leman keeps comparing him to J Leman” replies, which provided me much entertainment. But yeah, Monheim was impressive. Shedding blockers, moving laterally, fighting through holes on instinct. Sure, it’s just his third game, and he has a lot to learn about playing linebacker against Big Ten offensive linemen. But I’m close to adding him to my 2015 Rose Bowl two-deep.
Justin Hardee as well. I was surprised to see Darius Millines start (I thought the ankle would keep him out), but after one catch he disappeared and later returned with his arm in a sling. Which means we now desperately need another receiver to step up. And with five catches for 99 yards, Justin Hardee was that guy today. I was impressed how he adjusted to the ball while it was in the air.
He came in as a raw athlete with speed – a track guy (I want to say he won the 200 meter dash in Ohio? Maybe it was the 200 relay). After first discussing him as a safety, we put him at WR in Rantoul and taught him the position. Now, I think he’s clearly the #4 receiver. And if Millines is out with this new injury (seemingly his 7th injury in the last 2.5 years), Hardee probably starts.
+ Speaking of injuries, here’s the injured players I remember seeing on the sideline:
Darius Millines (arm in sling)
Devin Church (hasn’t dressed for any games)
Graham Pocic (leg wrapped, hobbling)
Nathan Scheelhaase (duh)
Nick Immekus (limping a bit)
Josh Ferguson (concussion)
Supo Sanni (do we know? knee? ankle?)
Houston Bates (not sure)
Henry Dickinson (broken leg)
That’s eight of our 24 starters, plus some backups who would have likely played a lot. Hopefully this was a lot of precautionary “we won’t need them against Charleston Southern so we’ll just rest them” stuff. Because we probably don’t have enough depth to survive eight starters out come Big Ten season.
+ Speaking of the Big Ten, HOW BAD IS THE BIG TEN? Wisconsin needed Utah State to miss a field goal with 11 second left to win. Michigan State looked bad. Indiana lost their third straight to Ball State. Iowa struggled with FCS Northern Iowa. Ohio State was tied with Cal at home with 4:00 remaining.
Right now, I think you’d have to say Purdue is the favorite to win the Leaders division (well, Ohio State will “win” it, but they won’t really “win” it). And Purdue isn’t very good. OK, that’s not fair – they’re a nice little team that gave Notre Dame a run. But put them up against Mississippi State and they lose soundly.
The Big Ten is bad. And we only have to beat three marginal teams to go to Indianapolis. Oh please oh please.
+ My favorite play: Donovonn Young running over that poor safety on his touchdown catch. He had done the same on his previous swing pass, but that time the safety had corner help. This time, Truckmaster lowered his shoulder, delivered the hit instead of taking the hit, and continued right on down the sideline for the touchdown. More of that, please, Mr. Truckmaster sir.
OK, so next week probably tells us if we’re going to be able to make that run at Indianapolis. Louisiana Tech comes in averaging 56 points per game. We come in having scored 58 in our last two games. I think we’ll be able to move the ball against them, especially if Nathan is back. But can we stop their offense?
Stop them, get the ground game going, and we can start to think about making a run in what could be the worst Big Ten in decades. Don’t stop them (and struggle to move their not-so-stout defensive line) and we’re probably in big trouble.
Hmmm… this game is a night game. I wonder if EVENT STAFF will start clearing the balcony in the third quarter.