Illinois at Indiana football update and analysis from Andy Graham

Well, internet connectivity issues precluded my joining you in time to set the scene, or even in time to document Shane Wynn’s electrifying 99-yard kickoff return that got the Hoosiers a 7-0 lead 12 seconds into the game, and the subsequent Illini 3-and-out and IU’s first possession from scrimmage that produced one first down, then stalled. Will try to be more timely from here on out. As always, thanks for joining us. Updates and analysis will ensue below the fold.

FIRST QUARTER

Indiana 10, Illinois 0, 5:55. Mitch Ewald connected on a 44-yard field goal to increase the Hoosier lead after a fumble recovery by Brandon McGhee set the Hoosiers up at their own 47. Strong running right up the gut by Stephen Houston behind some good blocking got IU to the Illini 29 before a low/dropped pass helped thwart the momentum. Still, a great start for IU on both sides of the ball. The Hoosiers have been opportunistic.

Indiana 10, Illinois 7, 4:22. The Hoosiers had Illinois in a 3rd-and-11 and totally sold out on a blitz, but it was picked up and Nathan Scheelhaase hooked up with A.J. Jenkins for about as easy a 75-yard scoring pass as you’ll see. It had to be a blown coverage, in the context of the blitz, because Forisse Hardin was the only Hoosier left in the secondary and had to cover the entire field, which obviously is beyond the capacity of any one guy. The only explanation, seemingly, would be that somebody (and maybe more than one guy) blitzed when they weren’t supposed to. I know the staff wants to be aggressive, but that blitz was clearly not what they had in mind.

Illinois 14, Indiana 10, 1:34. The wild and woolly momentum swings continue. Dusty Kiel made a great play when, nearly sacked, he found outlet option Stephen Houston for a 48 yard pass play down the east sideline to the Illinois 30. But then on a 3rd-and-10 from the Illini 22, the pass protection broke down almost immediately and Kiel was stripped of the ball by Whitney Mercilius and Tavon Wilson scooped up the fumble to zoom 66 yards for the TD to give Illinois its first lead.

SECOND QUARTER

Indiana is playing Tre Roberson at quarterback now, and that perhaps isn’t just because Kiel lost the fumble. The problem is strictly an offensive line issue, with Illinois penetration a real problem. Roberson gives IU a bit more escapability at quarterback. It looks like Kiel and Roberson will alternate.

Illinois 14, Indiana 13, 10:49. Well, it remains entertaining. After another great Adam Pines punt (a 46-yarder that gave Illinois the ball at its 9), Adam Replogle sacked Scheelhaase and caused a fumble recovered by IU freshman Bobby Richardson at the Illini 3 at 12:31 of the second. But then IU’s offense comes up with three straight running plays that netted exactly zero yards. Houston lost two, gained two, then Kiel got stopped for no gain. All zone-reads. Really uninspiring play calls, gotta say.

Illinois 20, Indiana 13, 7:18. Illinois just showed IU how to run the read option, roaring downfield mainly on the ground, then how to score a TD from a 1st-and-goal from the 3. After one failed running attempt, Scheelhaase found Jon Davis for a relatively easy 3-yard TD pass, beating Greg Heban. Lawrence Barnett, IU’s other cornerback, got beat on the drive, too, giving up a 25-yard sideline completion to Jenkins to get the ball to the 3. The Illini opted to try a 2-point conversion, but Heban broke up the pass, so the margin remained 7.

IU, behind Roberson, moved past midfield on its ensuing possession, but again bogged down. The Hoosiers have now run the ball on 15 of their past 18 snaps, and just can’t do it quite consistently well enough to sustain drives.

Illinois 27, Indiana 13, 2:04. After Adam Pines stuck the Illini back at their own 3, Forisse Hardin missed a tackle that could have prevented a first down, then the Illini capitalized. Scheelhaase hit Jenkins with a perfectly-thrown strike down the west sideline, beating Greg Heban for a 67-yard scoring pass. things are unraveling for the Hoosiers, now. IU’s offense came on with nice field position at their own 46 after a good return by Wynn, but three off-target Kiel passes later, Pines was punting again.

HALFTIME: ILLINOIS 27, INDIANA 13. The Illini have gained control of the game after a hot Hoosier start. Indiana’s offense continues to, for the most part, sputter. The defense has been gouged by big plays. The bright light for IU, really, has been special teams. Shane Wynn’s returns and Adam Pines’ punting have helped considerably.

But Illinois is looking more like the nation’s No. 19 team now. And IU has only 119 yards of offense on 43 first-half snaps, and that just isn’t going to get it done. Kiel has only hit on 4 of 13 passes, and 48 of his 56 yards passing came on the outlet pass to Houston, who got most of that yardage with his feet. Scheelhaase is only 5 of 9, but that has produced 173 yards and 3 TDs.

Stephen Houston has run the ball well for IU, with 44 yards on nine carries. But the Hoosier offensive line play remains problematic. The Illini defensive front is generating consistent penetration. IU’s defensive front, on the other hand, has gotten more pressure on Scheelhaase today than it has generated against other quarterbacks. But when Scheelhaase has had time, big plays have often resulted.

THIRD QUARTER

Illinois 34, Indiana 13, 4:57. More of the same, essentially, here after halftime, in that it’s a continuation of Illini control. Illinois methodically marched nine plays for 54 yards and a TD, with Scheelhaase scoring easily on a keeper around right end to make the margin 21. Kiel remains ineffective, and Roberson can’t seem to provide a spark, either.

Kiel, who has again shown moxie and toughness at times, has still nonetheless essentially failed the audition today, which seems a shame for both him and the team, because IU sorely needs somebody to emerge as a viable quarterback right now. It’s not all his fault, of course. But even when he’s had time to throw, he’s been off target. We might be getting to the point, now, where it might behoove IU to play Roberson more just to see what he can do. Wright-Baker is presumably unavailable, still, with the ankle injury sustained against North Texas two weeks ago still having cost him practice time.

FOURTH QUARTER

IU’s students have taken a powder, as has probably half the crowd on the alumni side, too. The product on the field just isn’t very good right now.

Adam Pines entered the final quarter today with 303 yards punting. That’s over twice as many yards as IU had in total offense, at 146 yards. Illinois had 398.

Roberson came up with two straight good plays on IU’s first fourth quarter possession, a 22-yard strike to Ted Bolser, then a 21-yard catch and run by Houston, but the next snap went right past Roberson in the shotgun formation, resulting in a 14-yard loss, and the drive died.

Illinois 34, Indiana 20, 5:29 to play. Roberson took the Hoosiers all the way for a score on the next drive, 85 yards on 11 plays, for a TD. Roberson supplied the score by plowing in from the 2 on a read-option.

Don’t know if Illinois is playing quite the intensity now, having dominated the middle quarters so completely, but that was a nice scoring drive engineered by Roberson. He made a couple of nice throws. He also made a mis-read that became a near-pick. But overall he showed a bit of promise. And that, if anything, might just further complicate the quarterback situation. Whomever starts next week will have to do so at Camp Randall Stadium. Not an easy assignment.

Illinois 41, Indiana 20, 1:20. Illinois currently in the process of methodically, effectively running out the clock, plus scoring. Scheelhaase just made an especially nifty 20-yard run to the IU 1 with just 1:24 left. Jason Ford took it in easily from there.

And that could be the last blog post from here on another disappointing day for Indiana football, unless the Hoosiers strike to a late score.

Well, Kevin Wilson successfully challenged a truly awful call by the refs, who gave Tavon Wilson an interception when he was clearly out of bounds. Glad the IU coach still was willing to go to bat for his team at that point, even though it didn’t matter in the final analysis. The final IU drive reached the Illinois 15 as tie expired.

FINAL SCORE: ILLINOIS 41, INDIANA 20.