UCLA @ Illinois Box Score Breakdown

I don't think there is anyway to look at Saturday afternoon's nationally televised contest against UCLA as anything other than a complete disaster for Illinois football. UCLA was on a seven game losing streak, and Illinois was at home. If Illinois wins this, they could end the non-conference schedule at 3-0, but that did not happen. UCLA beat Illinois 35-17. Now, it is time when I break down the box score.

UCLA was coming off a game where they allowed 426 yards on the ground to Oklahoma State in the Rose Bowl, so it looked like Illinois would be able to run on the Bruins. Illinois' defense appeared to be improved from the previous season after their dismantling of Florida A & M, but as my box score breakdown pointed out, many of the tackles were coming from the defensive backfield. This trend would play out way too much for Illinois on Saturday afternoon.

Now, onto the box score breakdown.

  UCLA Illinois
First Downs 26 22
Rushes - Yards 47-273 41-208
Passing Yards 208 248
Passes Comp-Att-Int 14-21-1 23-38-1
Total Offense (Plays-Yards) 68-481 79-456
Fumble Returns - Yards 0-0 0-0
Punt Returns - Yards 1-0 3-15
Kickoff Returns - Yards 1-25 4-108
Interception Returns - Yards 1-0 1-0
Punts (Num - Avg.) 4-33.5 3-41.3
Fumbles - Lost 0-0 2-2
Time of Possession 29:05 30:55
Third Down Conversions 3-10 8-16
Fourth Down Conversions 1-2 1-3
Red Zone Scores - Chances 3-4 3-5
Sacks By: Num - Yards 1-6 1-8

Looking at the numbers brings up one interesting thing, Illinois did not get dominated like the score would have you think. The Illini actually won the time of possession battle by a minute, and they were only out gained by thirty yards. Where the Illini fell short was the turnover battle: the Illini had one interception and two fumbles, while UCLA only had one interception. Illinois also turned the ball over on downs twice.

Running the ball was supposed to be how Illinois would be able to pick apart the UCLA defense. The whole world new that UCLA had trouble stopping the run the prior week, and was retooling their defensive line after losing every started from the previous year to graduation. Ron Turner relied on E.B. Halsey to carry the majority of the load for Illinois, even in key short yardage situations (does 4th and one ring a bell anyone?)

  Attempts Total TDs Long Average
EB Halsey 27 97 1 23 4.6
Pierre Thomas 9 49 0 9 5.4
Brad Bower 6 39 0 14 6.5
Jason Davis 3 25 0 15 8.3
Jon Beutjer 2 -2 0 4 -1.0
Totals 41 208 1 23 5.1

EB Halsey: Halsey was the starting running back for Illinois, and he took the majority of the carries. He was three yards short of a 100 yard game. Turner had Halsey running on the outside, and the inside, a running style better suited for fellow sophomore Pierre Thomas. When Ron Turner needed short yardage on the first drive of the game, he leaned on Halsey to pick up a key fourth and one, but he could not get the first down. Halsey is just not suited for those type of plays, and as long as Turner has him running inside the tackles, he will never live up to his full potential.

Pierre Thomas: Thomas saw little time after he fumbled the ball on Saturday afternoon. Fumbling has been a big problem for the sophomore throughout his Illinois career, and it is one of the reasons Ron Turner is not asking him to carry more of a load for the Illini offense. I still think Illinois' running back situation would be best served having Thomas as the starting halfback and Halsey split out on the end.

On the second to last play of the first half, the stadium was silenced as Illinois' Jon Beutjer lay nearly motionless by midfield after taking a hit from a UCLA defender. Jon was removed from the game and would not return, leaving the quarterback duties up to red shirt freshman Brad Bower.

  Comp-Att-Int Yards Touchdowns
Jon Beutjer 12-22-0 146 1
Brad Bower 11-15-1 102 0
Totals 23-38-1 248 1

Jon Beutjer: After playing a nearly perfect game last week Jon reverted back into the Jon Beutjer that Illinois fans have seen throughout his Illinois career. He was making bad reads, and throwing bad passes. It is also apparent that his back is not 100% because he was under throwing deep passes throughout the first half, most noticeably a potential touchdown pass to Kendrick Jones after a beautiful playaction fake on the first play of the game.

Brad Bower: Brad came in and replaced Beutjer at the start of the second half. In his post game interviews, Ron Turner stated that he was using a very limited playbook in the second half because Brad had not practiced enough with the first team offense. Illinois always seemed to line up with two wide receivers, a tight end, and a single back when Bower was under center. When Brad dropped back to pass, he would make at most two reads, and either throw the ball or tuck it in and run. One of the most impressive plays from Saturday afternoon may have been Brad using a Brett Favre like fake throw when he knew he would be scrambling. The feet of Brad Bower give Illinois' offense a dimension that has not been seen in the Ron Turner era, and he let him use them.

RECEIVING STATISTICS The Illini were much more balanced offensively than I thought they would be heading into Saturday's game. They used the play action pass a lot, and it was very successful considering UCLA was loading the box to stop the rush. Then when you combine that notion with the fact that Illinois was coming from behind in the game, the Illini really needed to pass more than they should have.

  Receptions Yards TDs Long
Kendrick Jones 6 110 0 46
Jason Davis 5 31 0 11
EB Halsey 4 26 0 11
Melvin Bryant 2 26 0 17
Mark Kornfeld 2 26 0 21
Pierre Thomas 2 11 0 6
Franklin Payne 1 16 1 16
Lonnie Hurst 1 2 0 2
Totals 23 248 1 46

Kendrick Jones: Kendrick has established himself as the Illini's number one receiver after two games. He probably should have had a touchdown on the first play of the game, but Beutjer underthrew him. After being continuously ridiculed for his inability to catch the ball, Jones has come through this season with the tough catches, and apparently has that rap behind him.

Mark Kornfeld: This is the first time Mark's name was mentioned this season, but he made two big catches for Illinois. One was a long 21 yard catch that was for a first down on a key drive. After Mark caught it over the middle he looked like he thought he was about to get leveled, and his reaction was a definite moment of levity for me as I watched the game.

I don't know if I can even comment on this defense. I think for anyone that saw the game, they understand all the problems from the previous years are still here, and these statistics just lay that fact to bear even more.

  Solo Assists Total
Kelvin Hayden 5 6 11
Alan Ball 5 3 8
Travis Williams 4 4 8
Matt Sinclair 3 5 8
Chris Norwell 1 7 8
Anthony Thornhill 4 3 7
Joe Mele 3 4 7
Morris Virgil 3 2 5
Mike Gawelek 2 3 5
Mike O'Brien 2 2 4
Ryan Matha 1 1 2
Arthur Boyd III 1 1 2
Josh Norris 0 2 2
Melvin Bryant 1 0 1
James Cooper 1 0 1
Mike Maloney 0 1 1
Kyle Kleckner 0 1 1

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