ONE. Illinois is a bad team. We have faced other bad teams and struggled - we beat UAB by only 14 and their second win just came against a team that hasn't won yet. We recently struggled against a Purdue who aren't very good. So in that sense cruising as we did is really nice to see. But IL is much worse than PUR, and we are a different team than we were six weeks ago and beating IL by a ton is what we should be doing. What I'm saying is that we should not take away too much from this game other than the observation that we looked good. Save the gushing over team play for when we face an opponent with a heartbeat.
TWO. Even against a bad team Carlos Hyde deserves praise for a great work ethic and the ability to get the job done. It is impossible to overstate how important it is to our offense that we have that second option, that other defenses genuinely fear that Miller might hand off, meaning that they can not focus on Miller entirely which will make things just that little bit easier for Miller. I grade Hyde as a champion. (This is especially important since Rod Smith has a definite fumble problem. It will be interesting to see how many carries he gets if our remaining games are close.)
THREE. The problems we had going in to IL unfortunately continued. The stupid penalties are an epidemic. If we had anyone to replace him with Bryant should have sat for much of the game - two bonehead penalties in the first quarter and a dropped INT. We were given a gift when Roby's roughing the kicker was only called running into which didn't change field position. The tripping penalty on the INT near the end of the first half probably cost us points. This stuff is not from trying to hard, it is from not thinking hard enough. Meyer needs to get a handle on it. And our kick return coverage continues to be an issue. Maybe that's from not having the bodies we need. With a week off for injuries to mend we should theoretically have on kick coverage guys who can cover kicks. We need to.
FOUR. Meyer expressed unhappiness in our passing game without saying why exactly. In my view Miller passed a lot better than he had been. It was not his fault that Stoneburner dropped two well-thrown balls. I don't count against Miller that he was asked to throw bombs at the end of the first half, hurting his stats. Maybe our receivers need a lot of work but I thought Miller showed improved poise in the pocket.
FIVE. The one who didn't is Guiton. Even if all he will ever be asked to do is get the ball to a RB we saw that even that needs work. The only reliable way for an inexperienced QB to improve is game experience - practice is a totally different beast for one with limited game play. This game was completely under control by the end of the second quarter. There is no reason I can think of for Miller to have still been in the game into the fourth quarter. This is not about avoiding injury,though I continue to see that as a legitimate concern - this is so that if Guiton for whatever reason has to play any amount of time in our last two games he will have a better feel for what is going on around him. I guess we are to take from Meyer's comments abnout our passing game his feeling that Miller needed more practice but if that's the case leave him in working on it till the final gun. If Miller did not need to finish then Guiton should have been given more time than he was. Because as things are we are looking at a potentially serious drop-off in ability to produce if Miller ever has to come out the rest of this year. And while there will aways be a drop-off when someone as dynamic as Miller is replaced the drop-off need not be because the sub is unprepared.