Two Steps Forward.......Three Steps Back.

Two Steps Forward.......Three Steps Back.
The rebuild of the Illinois football program continues as they drop a tough 34-31 loss in overtime to Purdue.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Week of changes.........

What a week this has been, sports related and otherwise. First off, I became a dad for the third time on Monday, and after a short stay in the hospital, the family is back at home and all is well. One thing that I did realize while staying at the hospital with my wife and new son, Caleb Addison, is that Carle Hospital has cable television, and that means, no Big Ten Network. So, how did I arrive at the name Addison? If anyone knows me, then I don't have to explain. He is aptly named for one of the streets that border Wrigley Field, the shrine of the legendary Chicago Cubs. So, I was without the network for a couple of days, but thank goodness for wireless internet in the rooms! It kept me up to date with everything during those downtime sessions. The week got off to a great start last weekend, as the Fighting Illini football team pulled off one of the biggest wins in the history of the program, as they upset the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes 28-21 before a stunned crowd at The Horseshoe in Columbus. The game didn't start out on the right foot, as the Buckeyes went down for the game's first score very early on. However, the Illini mounted a drive of their own, capped off by an 80 yard run by Daniel Dufrene to set up the trying score. As victories go, this was especially sweet for Ron Zook, since he is an Ohio native. It was also the first time in 51 years that the Illini had knocked off the number one ranked team in the nation. The Illini up their record to 8-3 overall and 6-2 in Big Ten play, ahead of their final home contest of the 2007 season, Senior Day against Northwestern (11:00 am central time, ESPN). A wn over the Wildcats would almost guarantee the Illini a New Year's Day bowl game, and if the national pundits know what they are talking about, a date with the Florida Gators looms. It was Florida that fired Zook back in 2004, and a matchup that I'm sure that Zook is not dwelling on. He just wants the guys to get focused on Northwestern, and the rest of it will take of itself. If it does happen to be Florida that the Illini end up playing, the national media will be all over the story. We all knew that Zook was a good recruiter, and in his three years at Florida, amassed a pretty good record that I still question why he was let go, let alone why so many people wanted him to leave Gainesville. But, getting back to the Ohio State game for a minute, the play that sticks out in my mind was the fourth and one late in the game that sustained the Illini drive. Zook was prepared to punt, but Ohio State had too many men on the field and called time out. Juice Williams came over to Zook and pleaaded with him to go for it, and whatever was said between the two, Zook let him try to get the necessary yardage, which he did, and well, you know the rest of the story. I cannot remember a bigger win for the Illini, and I'm sure it ranks up there with the top wins of all-time in school history.
By the time you read this, Bruce Weber will have his team in tropical Hawaii gearing up for their week of basketball in paradise. Late Friday evening, the Illini battle Hawaii in Honolulu (12 midnight, central time) , then the Illini hop a transport to Maui, where they will play 3 games in the Maui Invitational. The Illini open up with Arizona State on Monday night. The Illini opened up their season last Sunday with a less than impressive win over Northeastern 63-55 at the Assembly Hall. It looked as if it would be another rout, as the Illini jumped out to a 10-0 lead very early on, but the Huskies kept chipping away at the lead, and the Illini only led 22-19 at the break. In the second half, the Illini looked to pull away again, but pesky Northeastern kept coming back. Brian Randle led the Illini with 14 points, while Shaun Pruitt recorded a double double, scoring 12 points, but grabbing a career high 17 rebounds. Here's hoping the we can see the true Brian Randle this year, the one that doesn't have injuries beset any of his season. As past experiences in Hawaii have shown. Weber will need to make sure that his guys are hydrated, or else things like this (see picture at right of Paul Davis for Michigan State a few years back) may occur. The Spartans ended up losing that game, as several others, including Davis , left the game with cramps due to the climate change.
In a related note, Bruce Weber received a letter of intent signing from Stan Simpson of Simeon High School in Chicago, who will follow such standouts as Nick Anderson, Deon Thomas, Bryant Notree, and current Illini player Calvin Brock to wear the Orange and Blue.
Illini women's hoops coach Jolette Law has her troops out to a good start on the young season, but they lost their first game of the season on Wednesday night to Alabama-Birmingham
69-56 at the Assembly Hall. Danyel Crutcher (pictured at right) led the Illini in scoring with 13 points, while Jenna Smith tallied 12. The Illini are 2-1 on the season and next face Southern Illinois on Sunday, November 18 at the Assembly Hall.

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