Cubit Tailoring to O'Toole

The Illinois offensive game plan changed quite a bit when Wes Lunt went down with a broken leg a few weeks ago. Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit has high praise for senior quarterback Reilly O'Toole and how he has responded.

For the first half of the season, the term "read option" was probably buried in some deep, untouched part of the playbook with Wes Lunt at the help. Lunt, a prolific passer, doesn't really threaten much with his legs, and isn't going to run often.

But when Lunt went down with a broken leg against Purdue, that page in the playbook got dusted off when Reilly O'Toole, the deceptively athletic senior quarterback, entered the game. O'Toole, who isn't an "air-it-out" type quarterback, does, however lend himself to a more run-oriented offense, and that's what Bill Cubit's strategy was with him at the helm.

"We just said 'We're going to pound it.'," Cubit said. "I thought we wore them out a bit with the perimeter game and got them coming downhill. When we were in the 2-tight end sets. The kids were excited about running some of those plays."

In previous weeks, Illinois probably would have been passing on third and short, trying to hit a screen play or a quick underneath route, but with O'Toole guiding the offense, the Illini were able to both get into and convert those third and short opportunities and sustain longer drives and control the clock.

"Reilly is very efficient," Cubit said. "In two games we didn't get the fourth down and we wish we got those back, but we got it this time on the option keeper when we saw the look."

One area where Illinois was consistently successful against Minnesota is also an area in which the Illini have struggled thus far this year. Inside the opponent's 20, Illinois came away with touchdowns three out of three times.

"You cannot keep running the same stuff over and over again. They (other teams) all scheme and we have to show them different looks," Cubit said. "I don't think we got some of the same big throwing plays we would get with Wes, but we were in the red zone three times and got three touchdowns. I think Reilly was a big part of that."

Even when protection broke down, O'Toole was able to use his legs to extend plays and create when he had to. Cubit hopes effort plays like that remove some of the doubts people have about his senior.

"The one scramble to Mikey and the pass to Jon Davis were big time plays for a kid who a lot of people said 'isn't good enough,'" Cubit said. "I hope Illini nation looks out there and realizes the kid can play."

Cubit also thought that the bye week helped not only in game planning and preparation, but also from the standpoint of simply getting healthy and recuperating.

"I think it helped mentally and physically having two weeks," he said. "(Beckman) did a good job of giving the kids time off and getting away. We have a lot of guys who are banged up. I kind of knew what we were going to be doing so we threw some stuff in ahead of time."

Cubit did admit that he wasn't able to use the entire playbook because of some of the things Minnesota decided to try to take away early in the game.

"Their secondary was really good and really physical on the perimeter and that took about 25% of the gameplan out pretty early," he said.

With the way the Illinois defense played on Saturday, Cubit didn't want to let that effort go to waste. But whether it was a blowout or a close win, Cubit just wanted to make sure the offense did their part to come out on top.

"I thought it was a total team win," he said. "Special teams and defense both played really well and the offense did enough to win. I write down my goals every week and I wrote down that I wanted to score one more point than the other team."

He continued, "I don't care if we score 50 or if we score 3. But that was a team effort out there and I didn't think that it would be a big play offense on the other side. I never thought it would be something like 21-0 where we would have to fight back, but we were efficient today and that made the difference."

Cubit threw in a few wrinkles to the offense, though, most notably the jet sweep pass from Dudek to Allison early in the game. But he was hesitant to use more because he didn't want to disrupt the rhythm his offense had established.

"When we throw things in there like Mikey's pass, it keeps the other team thinking," he said. "We had some other tricks in the bag that we didn't get out because at that point I just thought we were playing really good defensively and that field position mattered enough at that point."

But at the end of the day, Cubit kept pointing back to O'Toole. A senior who has spent most of his career as a backup, now in the spotlight as the starter with Lunt out, and Cubit is proud of how O'Toole has taken the situation on with the attitude he has.

"How do you not love Reilly O'Toole right now, though," Cubit said. "How he responded to adversity and being throw into that situation. You can't not like him for how he's responded."


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