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More Postgame Thoughts October 1, 2012

Let’s just say that you should look for Check The Tape on Tuesdays this year.  I can’t ever seem to find time on Sunday nights anymore.  Check The Tape – An ALionEye Tuesday Tradition.  Which sucks, because it looks like losing is now an Illini Saturday Tradition.  Wait, “now”?  I always forget which team I cheer for.

But I still have thousands of postgame thoughts running through my head, so I’m skipping lunch to write them all down.  Or, maybe, like, three of them.


I’ve taken Saturday’s From The Stands down.  As the hours passed, I kind of grew to hate that it was out there.  I’ve received a lot of responses, and I realized that this issue was somehow becoming about me or something (a lot of that “somehow” was probably my glee at getting everything on tape).  That’s not what I want, and I realized that my actions didn’t match this desire.

I considered posting some of the stories people have emailed me – stories of how the EVENT STAFF was rude and unaccommodating in their section as well.  But I didn’t feel like that was the correct angle here either.  Today, I feel like speaking right to the core of the issue and what I’m hoping to see change.

It’s not about being able to podcast from the stands themselves – I could do that outside the stadium.  It’s not about a desire to see the band march out (although I can understand why parents of band members stick around for that).  I’m not even asking for a Wisconsin thing where the festivities last long after the game is over.

I’d simply like to see the riot police mentality of the EVENT STAFF come to an end. It’s as if their training has told them “assume everyone is drunk and trying to break the rules”.  They circle the field after every game to prevent field rushes that just aren’t going to happen, even when we win.  They usher fans out of the stadium as quickly as possible after a game like there’s some bomb threat.

I wish I didn’t have to lump them all together.  I met one guy (white jacket, not green) last year who was very nice.  I explained to him who I was (a blogger), what I was doing (a mini-podcast that fans listen to after the game), and that I was trying to upload onto the wifi in the stadium.  He let me stay until the file uploaded, and I thanked him and told him I’d find other ways to upload after that.  He was very accommodating.  He listened.

But he’s the only one I’ve encountered who has done such.  The rest have done very little listening and a whole lotta power trippin’.  The emails I received two weeks ago and yesterday verify that I’m not the only one.  Elevator policies, waiting for someone in the restroom – everyone is treated with “I don’t care, these are the rules, deal with it.”  And I’m making this an issue in hopes that it changes.

The solution for me personally, given that I’m trying to capture the postgame atmosphere for fans who couldn’t be at the game, would be to get some kind of credential that I could show EVENT STAFF so I could remain in the stands more than three minutes after the final whistle.  Maybe I should have done that long ago.  But if I had, EVENT STAFF might just carry on, unabated.  I’m hopeful that this whole deal starts the path to some changes.  I want the inside of Memorial Stadium to be the best fan experience in college football.

But I also want the best team in college football.  So I’m a dreamer.

Bowl Goggles

I’m guilty.  I’ll admit it.  I was duped by the bowl win.  I started my preseason SOC intending to predict a 5-7 record, but, as you can see when you read it, I got sucked into “but this is a team that won back-to-back bowl games, so this isn’t a rebuild.”  So I said 6-6.

This is a rebuild.

Not a full scale rebuild like Turner or Zook faced, mind you.  But getting drilled by a Big Ten opponent reminded me that there was a reason we were 2-6 in the Big Ten last year.  And that reminded me that Ron Zook only finished above .500 in the league one time.  And that reminded me that we have a long way to go.

I’m not making excuses for Tim Beckman, although I’m sure many will interpret this in that way.  I’m saying that beating Arkansas State, South Dakota State, Arizona State, Western Michigan, Northwestern, Indiana, and UCLA makes for a very deceiving view of “health”.  This is still the team that was barely competitive at Minnesota last year.  When we match up with our Big Ten brethren, the view is not pretty.  Which is why Mike Thomas would have likely fired Ron Zook even if we did beat Minnesota.  We had fallen well behind the rest of the teams in our conference (again).

And we’re still well behind the rest of the teams in our conference.  We have a long way to go, and now we have the added benefit of not being sure we have the correct coaching staff in place to get us there.  THIS… is Illinois Football.

We’re Not Disciplined, Nor Inspired, Nor Resilient

More than any other issue, this is where my depression rests right now.  I expected the offense to look lost with a young line and a new scheme (I think my prediction was game 7 when we’d begin to see an uptick, SO WATCH OUT, MICHIGAN), and I was concerned that the defense wouldn’t take to Tim Banks like they took to Vic Koenning.  But I had no idea we’d look this dead.

The players were pretty fired up on the sideline before the game on Saturday.  Then Tommy Davis dropped the punt, and they were still.  And then we ran into the kicker, and they were slumped over.  Five minutes into the game, and the sideline is already showing signs that they’re tapping out.  There was a brief sideline revival when V’Angelo Bentley blocked the kick right before half, but as soon as the first three-and-out happened in the second half, dead sideline.

I am a firm believer in sideline demeanor.  In a team mentality.  College sports live off of it.  Get some no-name team within six points of the NCAA Tournament 3-seed, get them all to believe in each other, and watch the madness happen.  Get the ball back down six with two minutes to go, and watch every player on the offense come alive after a lethargic second half.  They fire off the ball on the snap, ready to hit someone.  There’s desire in every play.

Which is why I’m a Proper State Of Mind guy.  A Chuck Boerio guy.  “Hey Johnny, send Ameche at me.” If you can get the boys in the proper state of mind, you’ve got a winner.

We’re nowhere close to the proper state of mind right now.  We’re taking eight penalties to Penn State’s two.  We’re turning the ball over three times to Penn State’s zero.  We’re getting inside the ten three times and coming away with zero points.  And, perhaps worst of all, we don’t appear at all inspired.  Penn State did.  Louisiana Tech did.  We just looked like we had zero resilience.  Arizona State fumbled on our goal line to open the game, and they didn’t fold.  They got the ball back and marched right down the field again.  Saturday, it just felt like we mentally folded after the two early mistakes.

Which falls directly to Tim Beckman.  He was able to turn Toledo around from a point shaving scandal to back-to-back 7-1 conference seasons.  Can he do the same with the Illini?  To me, that question mostly rests here: can he get the boys in the proper state of mind?

20 Comments October 1st, 2012

I still remember Wisconsin 2007, when we beat the #5 team in country and one guy ran on the field and got arrested. Why arrest people for running on the field?

Hucklebuck October 1st, 2012

When Beckman declined the penalty, I turned to the guy next to me and asked if he had ever seen a mid-field penalty declined where the other team had made positive yardage, and he had not. Neither have I. (He is an IHSA official and I have coached HS football. So we’re not just two man-on-the-street types.) I was struck by the similarity to Zook’s infamous midfield declination at Iowa, which arguably cost us that game, and was emblematic of his inability to game coach. While I still hold out hope that the team can gel yet this season, I am not encouraged.

Hucklebuck October 1st, 2012

One last thought, this on the “dispirited” aspect. I’m reasonably certain that I could have run down the guy returning the interception 98 yards. I mean now, at age 57. I’m absolutely certain I could have done so in my 20′s. We’re just lucky that one guy stuck with it, as the other 10 had clearly given up by that point.

Joe John October 1st, 2012

How can you be so sure this isnt a full scare rebuild like Zook and Turner faced? Sure looks that way to me. Even the 2005 Zook team had Mendenhall/Pierre Thomas on it. Just because this group has some pro prospects doesnt mean it isnt a horrible team..and given how bad recruiting has been its not going to get better the next several years.

I think Illinois is in the dark ages right now…96-98 and 03-06.

ATOillini October 1st, 2012

Joe John,
I have to once again agree with you. Regarding a total rebuild, where are we even competent? To me the whole thing is just scary. We lost 6 in a row to end the last regular season and proceeded to beat a UCLA team that, like us, had imploded. Both teams had interim coaches. Has that ever happened before in a bowl? Not exactly a marquee matchup. Meanwhile, the draft picks we lost were most likely underrated in importance relative to what success the team did have last year.
Dark ages? I hope I look like a fool in a year or two, but I’d vote “probably”.

GrogsBBQPepperoni October 1st, 2012

Yeah, this has a sickening feel to it (in terms of feeling like a rebuild). The recruiting fell apart and may fall apart further after this year. And let’s take inventory of what we lost:
The nation’s sack leader, our most reliable kicker of recent memory, a first-round NFL receiver and other playmakers. And we were only 6-6 WITH those guys.
If not the dark ages upon us, certainly the dim ages.
Robert, it’s sort of too bad you deleted the “from the stands”. Ignoring the Event Staff Gestapo interaction, you did effectively convey what most of us feel – we’re in this for the long haul, dammit. No, we’re not looking forward to it like during the good times and it will totally suck to rebuild or quasi-rebuild. We’ll still root for these guys and watch them on Saturdays – even if/when OSU is kicking our teeth in. It’s our school and someday we’ll get another Columbus ’07 (or better). And it will make it that much sweeter when it comes.

JBeard45 October 1st, 2012

I believe that part of the problem is that Zook was not recruiting the right guys. We were going straight for talent and not looking at the types of players we were getting. For example, Tajarvis Fuller. He didn’t even make it to week 5 of his freshman year before he left. We need to recruit good kids and good football players. Not just football players. A good kid/football player would have kept their head up and stayed motivated until the final whistle.

Joe John October 1st, 2012

Did the real story on why Fuller left ever come out? I wouldnt think an alcohol consumption ticket in July would warrant him getting kicked off. I’m wondering if Fuller realized this was a sinking ship and decided to just bail on it…really sad considering he was a January enrollee.

Robert October 1st, 2012

The only thing I heard (rumor that was sent to me) was that it was a second violation. Not arrested, but broke another rule.

Lou-a-villini October 1st, 2012

Robert: I believe you are watching and podcasting from balcony, correct? Could it be that the EVENT STAFF is now ordered by University counsel to clear out the balcony immediately to prevent depressed fans from jumping?

Steve October 2nd, 2012

Priceless !
Laughing out loud . . . and then sobbing.

illiniranger October 2nd, 2012

so, i’ve been through the 5 Stages of Grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) for this season. here is what i’ve landed on – mason monheim. i think i am a bigger fan of him right now than his parents are. i love the way this kid plays. size, fundamentals, instincts… he’s got the total package. i think he’s our next great linebacker. and that got me to thinking…
ok, so this year is a total stinkbomb and there is a good chance that our coaching staff is terrible…. but…. mason monheim has never played in another system. what if he’s more reflective of where we are in a few years then the SRs and JRs who currently look lost, unprepared, and like they ain’t care. maybe we are just going to be absolutely awful this year and start to swing back up?
crazy right? it’s all i have at this point. please mason monheim, you’re our only hope.

Harry Lime October 2nd, 2012

My friends, it’s one long dark age that started in the ’80s. Yes, there were a few bright spots but it’s been one long rebuild. We need some kind of a Marshall plan.

illiniguy October 2nd, 2012

I can’t agree that this is a rebuild. We’ve now been curbstomped by two teams that also have entirely new staffs and systems and no more talent than us. This is a disaster of a coaching staff.

On the band issue, every year I go to the game with a friend who used to be in the band. We used to stay in the stands and listen to the band and then walk along and then follow the band to the band building. It was a nice pleasant wrap up to our game experience. I can’t imagine why they would suddenly prevent people from enjoying that. My only bad experience with “EVENT STAFF” is when they forced me to park in a puddle rather than a dry spot during the first game and their fascist policies about taking my kids’ water bottles into the game.

GrogsBBQPepperoni October 2nd, 2012

OK, part of me hates what I’m about to say but, what if we’re not really rebuilding. What if this is just who we are. Forever destined to be the lower tier of the Big Ten. Think about it. 9 months ago we got rid of our coach. OK, what happened. This job was clearly not attractive enough to get a big-time (or even medium-time) coach. People like my self think of the “good ole days” of mid-late 80s or the early 90s. OK, but that’s kind of the flipside of the way Wisconsin thinks of all time before Alverez as the “bad ole days”. They have changed their identity. They are a football force. Maybe we’ve changed our identity and sort of took their old identity. And maybe we shouldn’t expect to get back to 8-4 seasons and Florida bowl games. Sure, we’ll get to them once in a while, but it will be more of an outlier than the norm. Maybe this is who we are. Us, Purdue, Minnesota and sometimes Indiana making noise in the basement, playing spoiler or clawing for bowls with weird names in weird places.
I guess my point is that we can’t have a bunch of over .500 teams (let’s consider just conference record for sake of argument) in the Big Ten and we already know who the “regulars” are…UM, OSU, UW, MSU, PSU and, oh yeah, now we’ve got multi-national title Nebraska at the table. You could argue that Iowa has a better brand than us and possibly even Northwestern (Why did Kyle Prater not even consider us when he left USC and came back “home” when we were in the mix the first time around?). So, we want to say we’re rebuilding and “getting back” to something but what is that? We caught lighting in a bottle and made sexy bowls like the Sugar and Rose bowls in the 2000′s and got completely shellacked in both – proving we really shouldn’t have been there and we ourselves don’t regularly expect to be competing for the title year in, year out. We have a terrible gameday atmosphere at our stadium now (didn’t used to be that way) and the attitude of the fans in the stadium has been well-documented as “Woe-is-me / Debbie Downers” in general (also didn’t used to be that way).
I’m just wondering, is this our new identity? Maybe it’s not really a rebuild. Maybe it’s sustaining a program that can’t attract good coaches, isn’t a destination school for any kids in the midwest and doesn’t have a “thing” anymore (you could say we used to be Linebacker U or even just known for a great defense for a while – but then we were known for running a pro-scheme under Turner – and then we were known for, what, going for 2 when up 7 under Zook?). Maybe the damage has been done from too long of playing like a bottom feeder in the Big Ten….that we are just that.

illiniranger October 2nd, 2012

New/old identity of bottom dweller? We’ve had that distinction since Lou Tepper took over.
Any reason it can’t change? Not really. Alvarez at Wiscy, Snyder at KSU, and Beamer at VaTech have all shown it can change. And those programs, particularly KSU and VaTech had zero, and I mean zero, reason to crawl out of the dumpsters they were then living in.
Jeez, look at Snyder in late 90s in the early days of the Big 12. They were THE FORCE in that conference that got snakebit in some conference championship games. And that was with the likes of Nebby, OU, UT, TxA&M, and a non-dumpster fire Colorado in the conference. Hell, they even won the Big 12 Championship game in ’03 beating a then #1 OU for the title when Darren Sproles went bonkers.
Can we move up to that level? Absolutely. But we need the right coach. That’s a big TBD right now.

GrogsBBQPepperoni October 2nd, 2012

I hear ya, Ranger – anything CAN happen. And your point about the right coach is a great one. But it just seems like after Tepper, Turner, Zook, Beckman – we cannot attract the “right” coach. It’s not just about us wanting and finding them – they have to want us too. We just did this search and this is what we got. Why would it be any different in 3 years (unless the pool of available coaches is much better)? A week ago I was all about the Alvarez, Snyder turnarounds. The one good coach we did have just left for greener pastures. I don’t even want to go into the whole “Illinois as a stepping stone” argument (Mackovic, Self).

Harry Lime October 2nd, 2012

Grog, it’s a zero sum game for conference play. Equal number of wins and losses. For every consistent winner there has to be a consistent loser. When Wisconsin joined the winners, somebody joined the losers. I don’t want to be all doom and gloom, but we’re in a viscious cycle of losing. Winning begets winning, same for losing. It’s a tough cycle to break.

GrogsBBQPepperoni October 2nd, 2012

Bingo, Harry. I totally agree. And a winner like Nebraska entering just hurts us more. And Barry Alvarez and Bill Snyder – what they did, turning those schools around like that – it’s awesome. And very rare.

Steve October 2nd, 2012

Think it will probably take a bit of luck, which is to say the right coach. And then that “right coach” will have to be either a) delighted in C-U and wants to stay (Paul Rhoads at Iowa State a great example) or b) the right coach 2-3-4 times in a row, as they come in, do their thing, make us better, leave for a loftier spot, but get replaced by another good one, repeat. And . . . No. . . that was not a run on sentence. Not at all.