For the first halftime update of the season, this exactly what you wanted to see out of a Top 10 team. Not only are the Illini lighting up the scoring column, but there also seems to be great team cohesion. The first half story is definitely Adam Miller. The true Freshman has 19 points and is 5-6 from 3 point land pushing the Illini to command a 58-19 lead. Head Coach Brad Underwood has preached team defense all throughout the preseason, and not allowing a point for nearly 8 minutes is great team defense.
Not every game will be like this for the Illini, but as I heard in the TV broadcast on BTN, the Illini are a group of thoroughbreds that like to run and space the floor.
Notable first half play:
Andre Curbelo on an offensive shot, realized that there wasn’t a soul back on the defense for the Illini, and hustled his way back to take a charge, and grant another offensive possession. That is the hustle that BU is wanting to see, especially in the transition game on either end of the floor.
1st half stats:
Ayo Dosunmu: 14, 5-11 from the field, 3-5 from 3
Adam Miller: 19, 6-7 from the field, 5-6 from 3
Da’Monte Williams: 6, 2-3 from 3
BU has gone to the bench a lot, I mean you are up huge, in preparation for the two remaining games of the week, and to see what he has depth-wise.
The Fighting Illini Men’s Basketball program opens the season tomorrow with North Carolina A&T. If that team sounds familiar, that is because they were in Champaign less than a year ago. That is another pregame that will come tonight, or tomorrow morning since we have three Illini games to cover through the Thanksgiving weekend, all of the Illini Men’s Basketball games can be heard right here on WPXN.
What more is there to prove this season for the Illini? They have started the season in the preseason polls at #8, and were riding the hot hand from last season before the cancellation of the Big Ten Tournament, and eventually the March Madness Tournament. The Illini are returning a majority of the roster, minus Andres Feliz. Feliz will be missed this season with his ability to create looks at the rim, find the open man on the kick-out pass, and his ability to grab rebounds. The Illini are however returning 4 of the starting five in Ayo Dosunmu, Trent Fraizer, Damonte Williams, and Kofi Cockburn. We know at least two of them will start in the first game tomorrow.
With the return of four of the starters and the loss of Feliz, the Illini added major talent in the backcourt during the recruiting season in Adam Miller and Andre Curbelo. When it comes to the fifth starter, there is a big question. I know I can’t guess what Coach Brad Underwood will roll out tomorrow, my guess is Gorgi in the last spot, but it could be Adam Miller if he decides to run the small ball style of play.
The Illini have national recognition for the first time since the 2005 season when the Illini lost the National Championship game against the North Carolina Tar Heels. There will be a lot of eyes on the team this year, but from what I have heard from Coach Underwood and the rest of the players, they are ready. Followed by the North Carolina A&T game tomorrow afternoon, Chicago State, and Ohio will conclude the MTE(multi-team-event) and head into the Jimmie V Classic with #2 Baylor lurking.
I have high expectations for the Illini to shine on all the national stages that will be set for them, as we all do. The Big Ten season will not be a walk in the park either, and it never is. The Big Ten is the best basketball conference in the NCAA(look at the preseason rankings) with having 7 total teams in the Top 25. There will be some losses in there that will make us scratch our heads, but there will also be big-time wins. This is the season that we as media, and fans anticipated in the Brad Underwood hiring, making this the third program he has turned around, got back on track in the national spotlight.
The Illini are primed to have one of their best seasons in team history and I am putting them up there in the Flyin’ Illini and the 2005 NCAA runner-up team. The season gets underway tomorrow at 1 pm, pregame for tomorrow will come tomorrow morning. Follow along with me, and the station on wpxnradio.com, my Twitter @calefleming10, and the stations' Twitter @1049wpxn.
The Illini get their first win in Nebraska since the Red Grange days in 1924 and improve their record this season to 2-3, tied with Minnesota. The Fighting Illini dominated the entire game starting from the opening kick. The Illini defense forced 5 turnovers and played Lovie Ball. The offense has their starting quarterback for the first time since the 45-7 loss to Wisconsin in Brandon Peters who was finding open receivers throughout the entire game. The run game also had their foot on the fictional gas pedal, with Mike Epstein and Chase Brown both going over 100 yards. We will unpack the game here:
Let’s start with the opening play of the game. The Nebraska return was stopped on the 10-yard line when the returner was hit-sticked by the Illini. On the very next play, Redshirt Freshman QB Luke McCaffrey was facing pressure, when he opted to throw what looked like a forward pass, backward for a Jake Hansen fumble recovery which gave the Illini the ball on the Nebraska 10 right out of the gate. The Illini scored on their first drive with a Chase Brown 3 yard punch in to jump out to a 7-0 lead early. The run game was dominant throughout the entire game, which is made possible when you don’t start out in a 14 point deficit. As I stated in the intro, both Illini running backs each slated over 100 yards on the ground, Mike Epstein tallied 113 yards on 13 carries, and Chase Brown 110 yards on 26 carries. Each RB punched the ball into the endzone, Brown doing so twice.
Overall, there was a very balanced attack being called on offense by OC Rod Smith. The Illini passed the ball 25 times and rushed 52. The final 15 plays the Illini ran on offense were run plays to chew the clock out in the latter half of the 3Q and the 4Q. Not only was the attack balanced, when Peters did throw the ball he spread it out among a lot of targets. Donny Navarro caught 5 passes, Josh Imatorbhebhe 4, Daniel Barker 3, and Casey Washington 2. The offensive line played their best game of the season today, getting into the secondary and allowing Epstein and Brown to make plays. They also only allowed Peters to be sacked one time, which wasn’t really on the positron group rather on the TE Barker who didn’t pick up a block on a Husker pass rusher.
Moving over to the defensive side of the ball, the Illini had 5 total takeaways which are peak Lovie Ball. Linebacker Jake Hansen tallied an interception and a fumble recovery, Kahlen Tolson and interception, Tony Adams in an interception, and Tarique Barnes and interception. Not only did the Illini defense get takeaways, but the defensive line also made Luke McCaffrey very uncomfortable in the pocket, notching 3 sacks(Perry, Carney 2,).
Here are the Illini Drives which resulted in points throughout the game:
Illini touchdown set up by a 28-yard pass from Peters to Josh Bhebhe in the corner of the endzone
Mike Epstein breaks off a 59-yard run
Blake Hayes fakes a punt for a 1st down which gives the Illini a 28-yard field goal
Peters QB Sneak off Epstein fumble recovery
Peters extends a drive with his legs to get the Illin in field goal range,
Final Score: Illini 41, Huskers 23
This was the most well-balanced game that the Illini have played on both sides of the ball setting the tone right out of the gate with the quick touchdown on the Nebraska turnover on the opening play. The Illini improve their overall record to 2-3, with a looming Ohio State team slated to come to Champaign.
It’s halftime in Lincoln for the Fighting Illini and this is the best half of football the Illini have put together this season. As I said in the pregame, Rod Smith needed to have a balanced attack on offense, in which they have. The balanced attack has been in part because the defense has played Lovie ball for the first time all season.
The tone of the game was set on the very first offensive play for the Huskers on the backward pass by McCaffrey, which was not reviewed and given to the Illini. The Illini capitalized on each turnover(3) by scoring a touchdown on each. One major factor of this game has been the number of penalties that Nebraska has had through one half of play.
The Illini scoring drives go as follows:
1Q Jake Hansen recovers the backward pass on the 10-yard line, resulting in a 3 yard TD from Chase Brown. 7-0
1Q Illini TD Chase Brown 3 yard Punch. 14-7
2Q Illini TD on a 28-yard jump ball to Josh Bhebhe from Peters 21-7
2Q Mike Epstein 59 yard rush leads to an Epstein 1 yard TD. 28-10.
There has been a total of three takeaways in the game for the Illini defense. The Tony Adams interception to end the first half, the Hansen fumble recovery to start the game, and the Interception by Tarque Barnes.
Notable Stats for the Illini:
Peters: 12-15, 140 yards, 1 TD
Brown: 11 carries, 64 yards, 2 TD
Fighting Illini Live Blog vs Nebraska:
Partly Cloudy, 43, 8 mph wind. Kick-off time- 11:03
In the latest update, the Illini are without one of their key offensive lineman in Alex Palczewski as he suffered an injury in the Rutgers game. TE Daniel Imatorbhebhe has also been ruled out for today’s contest. For Nebraska, it has been confirmed that Luke McCaffrey will get the start under center.
Jake Hansen recovered what appeared to be a forward pass that was indeed backward, which gave the Illini the ball on the Husker 20. The drive ended in an Illini TD with a Chase Brown 3 yard punch. Illini up early for the first time all season 7-0. That was RB Chase Brown's first TD of his career.
Lovie ball is back this week. The Illini forced two turnovers in the 1Q, both of which the offense capitalized and scored. Chase Brown also has two TD's in the 1Q. Illini is up 14-7 2Q to come.
The Fighting Illini are on the road in Lincoln Nebraska this morning to take on the Huskers in a Week 5 matchup. For the first time since the 45-7 week 1 loss to Wisconsin, the starting QB for the Illini is healthy in Brandon Peters, and it has been confirmed that he will be the starter for today's game. Peters this season only has 8 completions for 87 yards. I know that is only one game, but those numbers are still shocking as he is a second-year QB with a lot of weapons to pick from.
Nebraska comes into the contest with a 1-2 overall record, with their lone win coming against Penn State last week, 30-23. In this week’s newscasts on WPXN, Illini Head Coach told the media that a point of emphasis on defense will be containing the two Huskers QBs in Martinez and McCaffrey. McCaffery tallied 217 total yards of offense last week in the win against Penn State, and Martinez has torched the Illini in his two games throwing for 618 yards and 6 touchdowns. Not only will the offense for the Illini have to be in peak form, but the defense will also have to be their best as well. The last two meetings between the Huskers and the Illini have been offensive shootouts, with the Huskers averaging 42 points against the Illini.
Keys to the game:
Establish the run game
Pressure the QB
Sunny, 43, 8 mph wind.
Illini Out at Nebraska:
Illini Available against Nebraska:
Be sure to follow along on Twitter, @calefleming10, and @1049wpxn for live stats, the live blog, the halftime update, and the postgame report.
Fighting Illini Junior Guard, and Sophomore big man Kofi Cockburn has been named to the Naismith Trophy Watch List. Illinois is one of nine schools, and the only school in the Big Ten conference with two players on the 50 player preseason list for the player of the year watch list.
The Naismith Trophy has been awarded every year since 1969 to the best collegiate basketball player. Iowa Big Man Luka Garza was last year’s award winner, and he is another favorite to win the award again this season.
The two Illini standouts have built massive preseason resumes in the highly anticipated season for the #8 Illini this year. Dosunmu has been named a Preseason All-American, Bob Cousy Award watch list, First-Team All America, Unanimous All-Bit Ten, Nations most intriguing player, Nations No.1 guard(CJ More of the Athletic), No. 3 overall players (Matt Norlander, CBSSports.com) Nations No. 2 Returning Player(Andy Katz, NCAA.com). Cockburn has earned or been named to the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Watch List, All Big-Ten, No 4 big(Brendan Marks, The Athletic, No. 10 returning player(Andy Katz, NCAA.com), No. 17 Overall players (Matt Norlander, CBSSports.com).
Last season, Dosunmu averaged 16.6 points and 4.3 boards per game. Dosunmu also earned First-Team Big Ten by the media. Cockburn was the 2020 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, notching 13.3 points, 8.8 boards, and 1.4 blocks.
The highly anticipated season tips-off for the Illini next Wednesday, every game can be heard right here on WPXN.
The NBA Draft took place last night, and for those of you that aren’t huge basketball fans like myself, or just watch it for background noise, the Chicago Bulls took Forward Patrick Williams with the 4th overall pick in last night's draft.
Williams is a talented kid from Florida State who has length, and athleticism. Williams is also one of the “new age” players that is considered positionless meaning that he can play everywhere on the floor if needed. Williams however did not start a single game for Florida State in his short collegiate career, but he did average 9.2 points and 4 rebounds off the bench.
Williams will fit with the Bulls well I think, after first being shocked at the selection and not understanding why they took him with the 4th overall pick, after more research it began to make more sense. Lauri Markkanen who plays in the 4 spots for the Bulls, is not producing like most thought he would. Last season Markkanen averaged 14.7 points per game but was very inconsistent from three-point land shooting just above 35%. Williams being a stretch 4 can shoot from three, and make them.
The Bulls have a long way to go in the rebuild process, but Williams was someone that first their style, and someone that Billy Donavon will be able to use on all positions on the floor.
The University of Illinois is on the road this morning to take on Rutgers Piscataway. The Illini are looking for their first win of the season, after the loss to Minnesota on your home turf 41-14 last week.
Rutgers comes into week 4 with a 1-2 record, with their only win being over Michigan State in week one. However, Rutgers has been in close contention to win each one of their games they have played this season, outside of Ohio State.
There is no doubt that the Illini have had their offensive woes this season, but the defensive side of the ball has been atrocious. The Illini are letting up a massive amount of yards, and points per game. The Illini are going to have to fire on full cylinders to make this game competitive.
Here are some quick pregame notes on the QB situation:
Brandon Peters is still out due to a COVID-19 Positive test.
Isaiah Williams is good to go this afternoon.
The last bit of information that I have for the unofficial pregame post has to do with RB Mike Epstein ranks 17th in the Nation and second in the Big Ten in Yards Per Carry with 6.47. The Illini defense needs to give the offense a chance, instead of starting with a 14 point deficit, and getting the run game established.
The Paxton-Buckley-Loda School Board met this evening to determine if PBL will be hitting the hardwood this winter sports season. The IDPH recently moved basketball from a “medium risk” to a “high risk” sport. With basketball being in the high-risk category, or Level 1, that means that no contact practices can be held, and there can only be training.
The IHSA unveiled a plan that would allow IHSA member schools to participate in the winter sports season, with practices for basketball starting next Monday(Nov. 16), the same day that IDPH moved basketball to a high risk or Level 1 sport. With the conflicting information, many schools in the WPXN listening area are opting out of the winter season citing health, and safety concerns. Here is the full release from PBL Athletic Director Brock Neibuhr:
With PBL’s decision, that marks the second Sangamon Valley Conference school to opt-out of the season with Clifton Central doing the same earlier in the week. Other schools in the WPXN area to opt-out are Rantoul Township, Mahomet, Monticello, St. Thomas Moore, Danville Schlarman, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, and Georgetown-Ridgefarm. Tune in on our newscasts tomorrow morning at 6:30, 7, 7:30, and 8 for more information.
The Fighting Illini Men’s Basketball program added an elite shooter today in the early signing period. Luke Goode, who has length, athleticism, and the ability to score from anywhere on the floor is just what Brad Underwood and his staff were looking for. Goode, an Indiana native had other offers from Indiana, Purdue, Michigan State, and more in the Big Ten but ultimately chose the Illini as his destination.
Goode is a 4-year program guy, much like Cassius Winston at MSU, or Xavier Simpson at Michigan. Underwood had this to say about him:
If you put an emphasis on what Coach Underwood said in this clip, think of the “nice fit for the basketball family.” The Illini lost Alan Griffin in the transfer portal this past offseason. Griffin was the Illini’s most lethal shooter from beyond the three-point line with a 41.6 percentage. Goode will be a nice fit for the Illini beyond the arc. This season, the outside shooting will most likely come from Adam Miller, on the kick-outs from Ayo or Kofi.
In other Illini News, the Braggin’ Rights game has been announced. The Illini and Mizzou square off December 12, but the location will be determined tomorrow night with a coin flip that will be broadcast on FightingIllini.com. Other than the Mizzou game, the only other game that has been announced and is official is Duke at Cameron Indoor Area for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Coach Underwood had this to say on the schedule update:
Indintally Coach Underwood laughed at the question when it was asked. But I know that they are getting closer to the scheduled release date that I am assuming will drop within the coming days.
The last bit of Illini News that I have for tonight is the update on how the team is doing. Coach Underwood at his presser today stated the team is developing and finding a feel for each other but needs to find more continuity on the defensive end of the floor. Hear that here:
The offense is solid, and you saw that last year with Kofi and Ayo scoring essentially on command. Trent Fraizer and Damonte Williams have also proved themselves as defenders, and Kofi’s rim defense is key for the Illini’s success in the upcoming season.
Just a quick update, there will be no “live blog” today, just updates on my Twitter Page @caledouglas10:
The Illini kick off in about 5 minutes from Memorial Stadium against The Minnesota Golden Gophers. Here are today’s game notes:
Referee: Greg Blum
Umpire: Edward Feaster
Linesman: Jeff Sznick
Line Judge: Rudy Studd
Back Judge: Jake Kemp
Field Judge: Lashell Nelson
Side Judge: Joel Clay
Center Judge: Eric Oliver
Cale’s Quick Hits are brought to you by The Paxton IGA.
The Chicago Bears are now on a two-game skid, after blowing the Week 7 game against the New Orleans Saints at home. Welcome to the new Tuesday Segment here on Cale’s Corner-Quick Hits.
The first segment on Tuesdays Quick Hits will be Bears Football(nothing like repeating myself twice) and how much trouble this team is in on the offensive side of the ball. I didn’t get to watch much of the 1st half but was all in for the second. One thing that I have noticed, as well as everybody, is the inability that the Bears offense has at moving the ball. Whether it be Mitch or Foles the ball can’t be moved.
Is the problem actually Matt Nagy?
Deep down I think there is a serious scheme issue, or Head Coach Matt Nagy not calling the correct plays at the right time, or maybe just not knowing what is going on during the game. I keep finding myself circling back to the Monday Night Football game against the L.A Rams, when the Bears were in a 4th and 1, and Nagy opts to run, like you should in that situation, Corderlle Patterson to the short side of the field. I don’t understand when you have a perfectly capable running back in David Montgomery to run there, or the option to put Mitch on the field to sneak the ball for the first down is mind-blowing to me. The next issue that I see within the play design is Matt Nagy continuously sending speedy Rookie Darnell Mooney on vertical routes. Mooney has the speed to beat any safety or corner that is lined upon him or his side of the field, but it’s too simple to cover when on virtually every pass play Mooney is downfield and not running an out-route or a crossing route which he could use his speed and shiftiness to make a play.
Is it time to go back to Mitch?
Too many drives become stale on Foles not being able to move the ball, going three and out, and forcing the defense back onto the field. If you watch like I do, Foles regularly under throws receivers, or makes a bad throw that gets picked off. The OT quarter however is not on Foles. Jimmy Graham dropped a pass that hit his hands on a curl route which would have picked up a first down, and the very next play Anthony Miller did the same on another out-route. I think it might be time to put Mitch back on the field who is still undefeated this season because we all know that he can move the ball with his legs if he can’t move the ball through the air.
Is this team going to go 8-8?
The Tennessee Titans are coming to town this Sunday and that has me on pins and needles. The Titans on offense are explosive and they have a guy named Derrick Henry who creates a lot of problems for defenses. But this is a Titans defense who is very lackluster and has problems stopping the ball. If the Bears can hold that offense to right around 20 points that game can be winnable, but until the offense gets figured out, the Bears would be lucky to finish the season 8-8. In good news for the Bears, the NFL owners are meeting on expanding the playoffs to 16 teams, 8 from each conference which would mean 8-8 would get the Bears to the playoffs. The way the playoffs are structured at the moment, they are not going anywhere. The Packers are going to win the NFC North, the Bucs the East and I think the Seahawks the West, and the Eagles the East leaving one wildcard spot which could go to the Cardinals.
I don’t think the Bears are a bad team overall, the offense is bad, yes but that defense should be able to win them another game if not two. The offense has to step up, play as you did in 2018 when you were having fun, and win some ball games.
The 2020 MLB Award Finalists have been announced and there are a few from the two Chicago teams, but no Cardinals. Let's start with the Cubs:
Chicago Cub, Yu Darvish has been named as a Cy Young Award Finalist. Darvish finished this season with a 2.01 ERA, 2.7 WAR, .96 WHIP with an 8-3 record in 12 starts. This season was a 360-degree round-a-bout for the Cubs right-hander. In 2019 Darvish was 6-8 with a 3.98 ERA. Darvish is a finalist with Trevor Bauer and Jacob deGrom.
First-year skipper David Ross is one of the Managers of the Year Finalists. Ross navigated the North Siders to a 34-26 record in the pandemic shortened season, starting 13-3. After that 13-3 start, the Cubs never could get above .500. The only stain on Ross’s 2020 bid is the sweep in the postseason against the Miami Marlins.
The Chicago White Sox also have multiple finalists. Recently fired skipper Rick Renteria is a Manager of the Year candidate after getting the young White Sox to the postseason finishing with a 35-25 record in the pandemic shortened season. The Sox finished second in the division this season, the highest since 2005 when they were AL Central Champions.
Jose Abreu is an MVP Finalist for the South Siders. Abreu in 240 at-bats this season hit 19 home runs, with 60 RBIs, and has a .317 BA. In his six-year career, Abreu has never hit better than .304. Abreu also scored 49 runs for the Sox.
The last finalist, for Rookie of the Year, Luis Robert. The White Sox are loaded with talented rookies. Robert however is one of the highest-rated. Robert this season in 202 plate appearances this season hit 11 home runs, notched 31 RBIs (Lead AL Rookies), and batted .288 for his first year as a pro.
The award winners will be named on November 10 and 11. Stay Tuned for the winners.