It was the same old story for Illinois football last weekend. This past Saturday against the Indiana Hoosiers, in a 24-14 loss, the Illini had their fair share of opportunities but failed to capitalize on them. Their defense forced a turnover in the first half, with Jaylen Dunlap intercepting Hoosiers’ quarterback Richard Lagow, but the offense failed to put any points on the board.
The offense moved the ball effectively once in a while, but when they did it resulted in a turnover by quarterback Jeff George Jr. With Ohio State coming up, Illinois has to have a good week of practice and focus on limiting turnovers if they want to have a chance against the Buckeyes in Columbus.
Illinois can have a more effective offense if the following happens.
Better Offensive Line Play
If Illinois wants to have any chance to throw the deep ball to receivers Malik Turner and Ricky Smalling, then the run game must be established so that the play-action pass game can be implemented into the playbook. Kendrick Foster is a very hard runner and is able to burst through holes when they are there. However, the problem is the offensive line has not opened up big enough holes for him to run through.
It seemed against Indiana on numerous occasions that as soon as Foster got the ball he was smothered by a handful of defensive lineman. Knowing that the run game was not a major threat allowed the Hoosiers to play more men in coverage and thus make passing lanes more tight for George Jr. to throw into. Not only did George Jr. have to throw into tight windows, but he was constantly under duress when attempting to throw the ball. If the offensive line can hold up against the Buckeyes, then the run game will help to complement the passing game, making for more opportunities for the Illini to get points on the board.
Eliminate the Mental Mistakes
Illinois had eight penalties on Saturday, costing them 73 yards. The penalties were at crucial times as well. Many times Illinois made a positive gain of 10 or 15 yards but the play was negated because of a penalty. The penalties halted the drives, put the Illini in 1st and long, and they could never recover.
Another drive late in the game when the Illini were driving George Jr. eluded the pressure, stepped up, and then dropped the ball. The ball then landed in a Hoosier player’s hands, and the game was effectively over after that point. If Illinois does not beat themselves, sustains drives, and keep the Buckeyes defense on the field for long periods of time, then the defense for the Buckeyes could get tired towards the end of the game.
Although Illinois will give Ohio State all they can handle, the Buckeyes are simply the more experienced team and will win comfortably at home, 42-10.