Scoring on its first possession, senior quarterback Jon Beutjer connected on a 10-yard pass to freshman Ibrahim Halsey with 7:46 to go in the quarter. The rest of the half the offense went dry like the Sahara Desert.
Coach Ron Turner came out and tried to establish the run early hoping it would open up the passing game, due to Cal defensive pressure they were showing. Slice it any way you like, this game was lost in the second quarter. Turner was asked if Cal did anything differently in the second quarter, Turner quickly replied, "no." "We did, we quit blocking and people were not making plays when they need to make them." There were so many chances for they Illini to take control of this game, but again they came up a few feet short.
Turner's post game comments summed up the entire pre-season, "I'm tired of being close, we are not a good football team, I like the effort and energy but on game day were not doing what we need to do."
The game is not played on paper obviously, but Illinois has the players on its roster to be 3-0, but instead they face an uphill battle trying to salvage the remainder its season. Sure it's early, but come late October these games may come back to haunt Illinois if the don't turn things around.
This team is the toughest to figure out since the Turner regime began. Beutjer threw for 427 yards and first year WR Kelvin Hayden had 11 catches for 159 yards both were career highs. Halsey keeps proving he is one of the best freshmen to suit up for the Illini.
Changes could be made for next week's game against the Wisconsin Badgers. "We have a couple guys that are playing scared and they may not be in the lineup anymore if they are going to play that way," said Turner. I know one guy that needs more field time, WR Mark Kornfeld. This junior catches everything thrown his way. It appears that when the Illini need complete a 3rd down the ball seems to fall in Kornfeld's hands.
Now its back to the drawing board for Turner, he must find a way to motivate his players and keep the outside cancers away, but most of all win football games.