Cubit Pushing for More from Offense

Despite a win on Saturday, Bill Cubit knows his offense has far more potential than what was shown against Youngstown State. And the Illini will need to take the offense to up a few notches to match up with Western Kentucky.

Offensive Coordinator Bill Cubit and the Illini offense took a while to get going, but eventually the offense came to life and pulled away late to defeat Youngstown State 28-17 on Saturday.

Cubit pointed specifically to his two senior tight ends for making clutch catches when the team needed a spark for an offense that up until the fourth quarter seemed to be misfiring for much of the game.

"Jon Davis made some key catches for us and Matt (LaCosse) caught one at a key point," Cubit said. "For me, in that stretch, we had no sense of panic. We know we have to play better. If you're upset when you score 28 in a win, you know you can be better."

Wes Lunt is a confident quarterback, but even he might not have been fully prepared mentally to step back onto the field for the first time in almost two years. He and his receivers had a few disconnects, but not all of them were on Lunt. As the game progressed, Lunt settled in and remained confident, especially evident in the fourth quarter on some spot-on passes.

"You see jitters with some of the other guys and the confidence and the rhythm gets off a little," Cubit said. "On some of those wayward passes, that's where those guys were supposed to be. Now he did throw some bad balls, but I never saw him waiver."

The Illinois offense struggled to get the vertical passing game going until later in the game, but Cubit was pleased with the way Lunt navigated the pocket and always kept his eyes downfield, avoiding the pressure that came his way.

"We weren't very good in pass protection in the very beginning either," Cubit said. "They ran some twists and forced him out, but we tell him don't take sacks. We had a couple balls where he got hit, but I don't know he took a sack. On third and twelve, you might get upset when he throws one away but he avoided taking a sack."

While the Illinois passing attack put all the points on the board on Saturday, the rushing attack was hard to find. Cubit attributed part of that to YSU's defensive focus being on the run, but he still knows that they have to establish a ground game to be successful in the long run.

"If teams want to stop the run, they'll stop the run," said Cubit. "They'll put another guy down there in the box, and you can't always block them all. They have one more guy than you have. You'll get 2 or 3. But when they're playing coverage, you have to be able to run the ball. If you can't run when they're in coverage, that's when you have some problems."

One unit Cubit is already placing a lot of trust in is the crew of freshman receivers. Cubit singled out true freshman Mike Dudek for the way he responded both off and on the field to a key drop and how he later came up big for his team.

"We don't have any choice, they're the best we got," Cubit said of his freshman receivers and the other newcomers in the receiving corps. "Even Mikey dropped one, and you know Mikey. He never drops a ball. Then he catches a touchdown pass and comes over and says 'thanks for having confidence in me'. They're all pretty good players. We believe in the kids and let them go play it out. The one after Fotu forced the blocked punt, 99 times out of 100 he catches that ball, but things happen. Even the great ones drop some."

Cubit continued, "The big one to me was the catch on the sideline where he went up and got it. You saw after he dropped the ball how he responded. We have good kids who will respond, they understand. They figure it all out."

Late in the fourth quarter with the lead, Illinois finally got some continuity in the run game. Ferguson got the bulk of the carries in the game, but Young helped sustain a late drive with tough running. Cubit did point out that Young did a lot of unsung things throughout the game that helped the team win, though.

"It was great getting Donovonn going," he said. "He did a lot of good things. In pass protection, he was good. He understood what we were trying to do. He's going to get better. If he continues doing that, it's going to help us be a really good team."

Illini Inquirer Top Stories