Illinois Football: A New Hope in Champaign?

Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

llinois smacks Cincinnati 45-17 in a stunner at Memorial Stadium. Is there hope after all for Tim Beckman?

Before Obi Wan Kenobi showed up in Luke Skywalker's life, he was just a dorky hayseed farmboy (Hoosier) with a bad haircut that played with models and drank blue milk. Ben shows up and he's zooming through space rescuing princesses, blowing up space stations and saving the galaxy. So, is old grey beard Bill Cubit, Tim Beckman's Obi Wan? Will he guide Becks through the Big Ten towards an end battle with the evil Wildcats, with Pat Fitzgerald cutting down Cubit at midfield before Beckman's Illini reign victorious? OK, enough with the Star Wars references, but seriously has Bill Cubit helped Tim Beckman settle in and turn a corner? Probably too soon to say but the Illini's offense is clearly better and Beckman seems to look the part of college coach a bit more than last year. For the first time since he arrived in Champaign, there's hope. I'm still not completely sure what I saw in Saturday's 45-17 win over the Bearcats but it's clear Cincinnati's not as good as we thought, Illinois is not as bad and Purdue must just be some kind of awful.

The Good

Nathan Scheelhaase- Put up another 312 yards and 4 TD's in the 45-17 win. His 74% completion rate, 728 passing yards and 362.5 total offense average all lead the Big Ten and his 6 touchdowns are second behind Indiana's Nate Sudfeld. He should get a strong look at a second straight Big Ten offensive player of the week.

Illini Linebackers- Jonathan Brown leads the Big Ten with 23 tackles and Mason Monheim is tied for third with 18. The duo teamed up for 24 versus Cincinnati. While the defense hasn't been great it's been good enough, coming up with stops when they've had to.

Bill Cubit- After 2 games last year, the Illini totaled 38 points and 580 yards. Two games in, Cubit's offense has racked up 87 points and 986 yards. I absolutely loved the 26 yard pass to Martize Barr shortly after the Munchie Legaux injury. The Illini had the Bearcats on the ropes and that play delivered the knockout blow.

The Bad

The Illini Rushing Game-Though better in week two, Illinois ranks 11th in the Big Ten in rushing yards. In two games, Donovonn young has only rushed for 76 yards with a 3.2 average. Josh Ferguson has been better with 103 yards and a 5.3 average and should get more looks.

Memorial Stadium attendance- To Paraphrase Bob Uecker in Major League, in case you haven't noticed, and judging by the attendance you haven't, the Illini have won a few. Attendance at Memorial Stadium has averaged 42,603 so far 11th in the Big Ten ahead of only * Northwestern(38,033). With two wins in pocket, hopefully a good showing in Chicago and (God willing) cooler temperatures attendance should creep closer to 50,000 for a winnable game against Miami of Ohio.

Bearcat Offense- After hanging 42 on Purdue last week, Tommy Tuberville's offense looked very pedestrian. Facing a defense that gave up 34 to the FCS Salukis, Cincinnati scored only 17 on the Illini and never looked to be running on all cylinders. The Bearcats committed 5 false starts, had several key drops and were a meager 2-7 on 3rd down conversions.

And The Snarky

-Congrats to the Illini coaching staff for going an entire game without committing a sideline interference penalty. That raises the "no penalty" game streak to... one.

-All though Cincinnati was upset 45-17 and quarterback Munchie Legaux appears out for the season, there was some good news. Tommy Tuberville didn't slap any grad assistants and even made it through the game, not leaving at half time for a better job.

-So Purdue loses to a Cincinnati team 42-7 that goes on to lose to Illinois 45-17 then barely gets by an Indiana St team 20-14 that gave up 73 to the Hoosiers... who then lost 41-35 to Navy, and will now play Notre Dame who lost to Michigan 41-30... on ABC's national Saturday night game. Makes perfect sense to me...

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