Illini Football Has Same Primary Problem as Chicago Bears: Quarterback

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chayce crouch

All the glorious ties and shared proud traditions of Chicago Bears and Illinois Fighting Illini football were highlighted tonight. It’s the inaugural Hall of Fame weekend at the University of Illinois, and the three biggest names being enshrined are Dick Butkus, Red Grange and George Halas.

All are legends in Bears and Illini football lore, but recalling their glory days isn’t enough to distract you from the current mess in front of us. The past 24 hours have shown us that the Bears and Illinois are once again closely related, but this time it’s a serious problem they share- the QB1 position.

Right now, both teams are severely restrained by a really inferior starting quarterback.

mike glennon

Before we continue, to be absolutely fair, you cannot put all of the blame on the QBs. Both teams are critical talent deficiencies all over the place at every position. Fixing the quarterback position, for both Chicago Bears and Fighting Illini football, is no panacea. Mitchell Trubisky and Jeff George Jr. will not come even remotely close to waving a magic wand over the hot mess on both rosters.

However, “it all starts at the quarterback” is one of the biggest football cliches for a reason, because it’s true. Also, you already know what you have in Mike Glennon and Chayce Crouch, and you know the old saying about repeating the same thing, and expecting different results.

Last night, Glennon was an absolute turnover machine, a complete disaster in a huge, nationally televised prime time destruction at the hands of the rival Green Bay Packers. It was a Pack team that was far from full strength too, with many guys who reside far down the depth chart seeing major minutes.

mitchell trubisky

Make no mistake, it’s not Glennon’s fault that the Bears defense is suspect, and both lines are often overmatched, among the many many issues that this team has. However, Glennon has five interceptions and five fumbles in the first four games of the season. He threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles Thursday night. If he isn’t benched now, then what would it take?

Heading south geographically (the same direction both seasons are heading metaphorically), Illinois hosted the marquee college football brand that is Nebraska tonight, and an ok, but not spectacular crowd of 43,058 (about 2/3 full) showed up to see the Illini hopefully move to 3-1 on the season. (by the start of the fourth quarter, the stadium was about 2/3 to 3/4 empty)

The Cornhuskers issues are well documented, and they could have easily been had. Plus, 3-1, 1-0 in league play a quarter of the way through the season is certainly enough to give the success starved Illini football fan base hope for the 2017 campaign.

That hope and excitement is eroded now after tonight’s 28-6 blowout loss, which tells you just how much the season might have hinged on this game. It wasn’t just a very disappointing result for the Illini, the poor performance also lacked any real entertainment value.

chayce-crouch

If the game is a turning point for the season, then what play/drive/series was the turning point for the game?

There are a few which stand out. Down 7-0 in the first quarter, Illinois was driving when Crouch horribly under-threw a deep sideline pass to a wide open Mike Dudek.

The Naperville man playing his second season of Illini football in this his fourth year on campus, had to slow down and ended up fortunate that the pass was not picked.

Dudek, if he had a thrower who could hit him in mid stride, could have scored the touchdown that tied the game up and who knows what could have transpired later?

Dude can ball, K? His talents are going to waste with a QB like Crouch, who finished 9 of 15 for 99 yards, and an interception. The Newark, Ohio native is now 41 of 77 on the season for 427 yards, only one TD pass and four interceptions.

After starting the season 2-0, Illini football has now been blown out in back to back Friday night games, by a combined score of 75-29.

Eventually, on the same drive, this Illini football team was able to get the ball inside the Nebraska ten, but resigned themselves to calling three run and zero passing plays.

That tells you everything you need to know about the coaching staff’s faith in the “air attack” right now. If you are/make yourself that one-dimensional offensively, then what kind of chance do you really ever have of winning anything this year?

After the quarter change, with Illinois driving right before half towards the opposite end zone, Crouch made such a terrible throw on an easy wide receiver screen in the flat that witnessing it boggled your mind a little.

The only way anyone who has ever watched football can react to seeing a pass attempt like that is “Stanley from The Office” GIF:

If Illini football coach Lovie Smith doesn’t see now as a time for change, then what kind of situation would merit it?

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now and Minute Media. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and Chicago Now.

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