Nobody said that this was going to be easy.
With the Lovie Smith era now three games old, the Fighting Illini are feeling the effects of a lackluster past couple of seasons of recruiting, and the results on the field have been less than desirable for Illini Nation.
The latest setback was a 34-10 defeat at the hands of Western Michigan this past Saturday at Memorial Stadium, and with the loss a week earlier to North Carolina added in there, the fan base in Champaign is getting mightly restless.
Illinois watched the Broncos jump out to a 21-0 lead before Wes Lunt unveiled a little trickery, finding Ainslie Johnson down the sidelines for a 56-yard touchdown catch. It was one of the few bright spots on the afternoon, in which a MAC team won in Champaign for the first time in recent memory.
Western Michigan has quite a bit of talent, and with a depleted Illini offensive line due to some injuties, the Broncos controlled the flow of the game. Corey Davis, who is one of the best wide receivers in college football, was held in check by the Illini, only catching four passes for 97 yards.
Speaking of the offensive line, injuries to Gabe Megginson and Austin Schmidt has left a thin line scrambling for depth, and although both Schmidt and Megginson expect to be back for the Illini's next game, their health remains a concern.
Illinois has a bye this week, and according to many of the players , it couldn't come at a better time./ Normally, you want a chance at redemption after a tough loss like the Illini sustained against the Broncos on Saturday, but with the disconnect going on within the team, they need a chance to regroup.
Illinois will use the week off to get the linemen healthy, as well as figure out where the running game has gone. Since the first game against Murray State, the Illini running backs have been bottled up, and that can mainly be attributed to two factors: 1) the opponent, an FCS school and 2) poor offensive line production with second-stringers forced to play early minutes.
Illinois will next take the field on Saturday, October 1st when they travel to Lincoln, Nebraska to battle the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Nebraska will no doubt have revenge on their minds after losing in Champaign last season.
The Illini women's soccer team began Big Ten play this past weekend. and came up on the short end of a pair of matches. Last Thursday, the Illini welcomed the Purdue Boilermakers to Champaign, and Purdue won 2-0. Then, on Sunday afternoon, the Illini and Indiana went toe-to-toe, with the Hoosiers coming away with a 1-0 victory in overtime. With the losses, the Illini fall to 3-7 overall and 0-2 in conference play, and will take to the road this coming weekend, as they travel to the easternmost parts of the conference, first taking on Maryland on Thursday (6:00 pm CT, BTN), before heading to Piscataway, New Jersey to battle Rutgers on Sunday (12:00 noon, no TV).
The Fighting Illini women's volleyball team has had their share of ups and downs so far this season, and last weekend was one of the ups, as they traveled to St. Louis to compete in the Billiken Invitational. The Illini won all three matches, not losing an entire game, as they defeated Omaha, Murray State and St. Louis by 3-0 scores. On Wednesday night, the Illini began Big Ten play at Purdue, and went the distance against the #10th ranked Boilermakers, upsetting them in 5 games. The Illini lost the first set 25-21, then bounced back in the second and third games, winning 25-20 and 25-23. Illinois lost the fourth set 27-25, and then took the fifth and final game, 15-11. With the win, the Illini improve to 8-4 overall and 1-0 in Big Ten play, and will return to Huff Hall for the first time in nearly three weeks, when they welcome the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers. Match time on Saturday will be 7:00 pm central time.