Friday, October 30, 2009

Illini Football 2009:  Foot, meet Bullet

Though much has been written about the abhorrent play that has domed Illini fans to another season of wishing college basketball started the same week as the NHL preseason, less has been penned about the consistency of extremely untimely mistakes at early critical junctures in many of this years games.

Now lets get something straight, I’m not saying that if Juice doesn’t trip over his own player on the 1 yard line against Mizzou that we would be sitting at 7-0 looking at a BCS bowl appearance, but I do think there is some merit to the idea that this team is quite a bit star crossed and may even be the butt of some sick cosmic joke. I also believe that one should not underestimate the snowball effect on team morale, focus and success that costly penalties, turnovers and missed chances can cause. Additionally, due to the nature of football, a coach's strategy can completely change with a 7 point swing, which further highlights the extraordinary effect that one bad play can have on an entire game (and an entire season).

Now considering that Illinois has had multiple poorly timed mistakes in almost every game, it is obvious that this problem is beyond dumb luck and points more towards endemic issues throughout the entire team (kickers on up to coaches). Yet, I can’t help but think that if some of our fumbles had come in the third quarter on the 45 yard line with a 3 point lead rather than in the first quarter on the 1 yard line down by 14, things may have turned out a little different. Like maybe we would be 2-5 with at least one win against a school from Indiana.

This years football team reminds me a lot of the Illinois basketball team from two years ago which lost something like 14 games by 5 points or less. That team wasn’t horrible, it just made lots of mistakes at very bad times and couldn’t close out a game for anything. Now obviously this year’s football team is much worse, but I’m not sure if they are as bad as the record would have us believe.

Perhaps this is just blind optimism coming from a visually impaired Cubs fan, but I really do think we could still pull out a victory or two in the remaining games. Anyway, as far as I’m concerned the best option would be to fire the remaining Mallory brother, start burning incense to appease the football gods and use some Normal Community “home field” tactics for that extra boost of cosmic justice.

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