You Can’t Make Me Quit November 10, 2012
Since I’m apparently all about letting everyone know my whereabouts this weekend, allow me to set the scene for you. I sat in the press box for this game. This picture is my current view. Everything about that field excites me. This stadium excites me. We’ve been over this before – this is home to me.
Over my left shoulder is a television. On that television is the coach I wanted after Ron Zook was fired: Kevin Sumlin. His Aggies lead #1 Alabama on the road 29-24 with 40 seconds left.
During our coaching search, There were rumors that we were in negotiations with Sumlin. Some radio show in Florida (with no connection to Illinois) ran with the story that he’d be our next coach. John Supinie tweeted that sources were reporting that a “deal was close”.
But it never happened. And now Sumlin is at Texas A&M (wouldn’t you be?). And Alabama just jumped offsides, which means A&M can now run out the clock. My goodness.
Over my right shoulder a few minutes ago was the end of the Penn State/Nebraska game. A hard fought game between two well-coached teams. Nebraska pulled away at the end. The scene in Lincoln is amazing – thousands of rabid fans going nuts as their team moves towards a possible Big Ten title.
And Penn State – despite everything they’ve been through – they’re still right there. They’re certain to dip once these recruiting restrictions start, but Bill O’Brien looks like the coach who will have them back sooner rather than later.
And then I stare straight ahead at an empty Memorial Stadium. We lost. Again. Shot ourselves in the foot six times. Again. We’re now on a 12 game Big Ten losing streak with no real end in sight. Purdue knocked off Iowa today – they’ll beat us. No chance we win at Northwestern (NO CHANCE WE WIN AT NORTHWESTERN!!). And then next year’s Big Ten schedule starts Nebraska – Wisconsin – Michigan State – Penn State. 18 straight Big Ten losses looks like a lock at this point. Man oh man oh man.
So why does this field excite me? Why do I look at this stadium under the lights and still dream of a crazy, rocking night game environment like the 2000 Michigan game? Why can’t I quit this?
I’ll let Kanye take that one.
Why everything that’s supposed to bad make me feel so good
Everything they told me not to is exactly what I would
Man I tried to stop man I tried the best I could
I’ll keep saying it if I have to keep saying it: I’m not going anywhere. This season feels like one big “well will the fans stick around if we do THIS?”, and I feel the need to keep saying “yes”. Try to make me quit, Illini Football. You won’t. I’m. Not. Going. Anywhere.
(But could you maybe please stop trying to make me quit?)
+ I don’t think I’ve ever evaluated a football team this way, but my biggest issue with the play calling today was… second down play calls. What?
I have the benefit of the play-by-play sheet with me. Let’s look it up together. Here’s our second down plays…
2nd and 10 at the Minnesota 26… Scheelhaase run up the middle for 2 yards. It was after an incomplete pass, and I remember being puzzled by the play call (especially after Donovonn looked great on the first run).
2nd and goal at the Minnesota 2… Donovonn Young rush for no gain. I had no problems with that play call – punch it in with your best tailback.
2nd and 10 at the Illinois 22… Jon Davis rush for 3 yards. I like being committed to the run, but I remember wanting a pass there.
2nd and 12 at the Minnesota 33… Scheelhaase run for 5 yards. Trying to get in field goal range, I don’t like that call on second and long.
2nd and 23 at the Illinois 18… Scheelhaase rush for 5 yards. I think this one was a scramble, but still.
2nd and 1 from the Minnesota 45… Scheelhaase rush for 7 yards. OK, solid, although I still love the home run shot on second and 1.
2nd and 4 from the Minnesota 32… Ayoola rush for no gain. Big play there, as the sack on the next play knocked us out of field goal range.
2nd and 2 from the Illinois 33… Young rush for no gain. There it is again – second and short and no gain.
2nd and 8 from the Illinois 8… Ferguson rush for loss of 1 yard. Seeing a theme here?
2nd and 8 from the Illinois 31… Penalty Minnesota. YAY! Our best second down call of the game.
2nd and 19 from the Illinois 26… Screen pass to Young for a loss of 3 yards. My mom knew we were going to go with a screen pass there.
2nd and 1 from the Illinois 41… Scheelhaase 4 yard gain. OK. This is our 4th quarter drive attempting to tie it.
2nd and 4 from the Minnesota 49… Scheelhaase 7 yard gain. Good.
2nd and 5 from the Minnesota 37… Davis rush for 2 yards. Drive killer there. It worked with Davis on first down, so we lined up and tried it again. They learned.
2nd and 1 from the Illinois 29… Davis rush for no gain. This set up the Scheelhaase fumble on the sneak. WHY CAN’T WE GET ANY POSITIVE YARDAGE ON SECOND DOWN??
On our final drive we had three second down plays. One was a spike, and the other two were incomplete passes.
WHY CAN’T WE GET ANY POSITIVE YARDAGE ON SECOND DOWN?? So yes, going through this confirms what I remember from the game. We had opportunities to move the ball today. Several second and short plays. And we couldn’t do anything on second down. Which set up third down plays, and there everyone knows of our struggles.
On third down, the opposing coaches kind of have you cornered a bit. They know the main point of your play call will be to gain that first down marker. On second down, you have a little more freedom. Will they run? Pass? Go for the first down? Throw deep? Throw short?
We can’t execute on second down, and we put ourselves behind the eight ball because of it. I think that’s the first time I’ve ever said that about an Illini team.
+ Toughest play of the game was probably Nate missing Jon Davis for a touchdown in the first quarter. Right after the flea flicker, we split out Hugh Thornton to wide receiver (what?) and run some play where Davis is uncovered at the five. And Nate sailed the pass. Hit that, and maybe we get on a little roll. But we didn’t hit that. And we didn’t score.
+ They just handed me a sheet of quotes. Here’s what Nate had to say about the second fumble:
“Coach Beatty tells me all the time don’t reach the ball out in those situations. I think it comes down to just me trying to do too much, not doing my job. You realize that it’s third down and they get a stop there. I guess that’s the instinct that comes out when you get stopped on 3rd-and-1: you want to do what you can to get the first down. You’ve got to do your job. You’ve got to do what is expected from you and I didn’t do that. It’s 100% my fault.”
I feel for the kid, but then I don’t. He’s a third year junior starter. He simply cannot do that. Cost us any chance at a comeback.
+ These televisions are now showing Mississippi State/LSU and Kansas State/TCU (wait, does K Freaking State go to #1 if they win this?)
Dan Mullen has rebuilt Mississippi State and they’re competing hard against LSU. Gary Patterson built TCU from nothing. Bill Snyder built K-State, twice, from nothing. In Manhattan, Kansas!
It can be done. It will be done. I’m not going anywhere until it does. Consider me on an intellectual hunger strike. I’m thinking about doing one of those “I’m staying up here on this billboard until we win a game” stunts. If I have to prove I won’t quit no matter what Illinois Football does to me, I will. I’m going to be here when we clinch a Big Ten title game. I won’t quit.
(And if it happens after I die, please spread my ashes in the south endzone. Right about at the spot where Walter Young had clear possession of the ball in overtime. And don’t worry about staining the endzone – I’ll just look like those little pebbles in the turf at that point.)
I’m not going anywhere, Illinois Football. You can’t make me quit. I’ve just doubled down for the 43rd time. Not even another “offensive lineman catches a deflected two point conversion and falls over the goal line” could make me quit. Gimme your best shot. I can take it.
(But could you maybe please stop giving me your best shot?)