Illini Suffer Another Defeat

Week seven of conference play is over, and Ron Zook's Fighting Illini are still looking for their first conference win after a 37-3 defeat at the hands of the Purdue Boilermakers in West Lafayette on Saturday afternoon. The Illini committed four turnovers and committed 11 penalties for a total of 95 yards while allowing just under 400 yards to the Purdue offense on Saturday afternoon.

To say Ron Zook's first season as the University of Illinois Head Football Coach has not gone the way he, Athletic Director Ron Guenther, or any Illini football fan hoped it would be an understatement. Illini fans, players, coaches, and administrators were all hopeful for the 2005 Football season, especially after the opening week come from behind victory over Rutgers (a team who is bowl eligible despite back to back losses to South Florida and Louisville in the past two weeks).

Entering this weekend's game with Purdue, it looked like this was Illinois' last chance for a conference win in Ron Zook's first jaunt through the Big Ten, but it was not to be. For the sixth time in seven Big Ten Conference games, Illinois has been on the wrong side of a twenty-plus point defeat. Today's 37-3 defeat at the hands of the Purdue Boilermakers marks the second straight game the Illini have been unable to find the end zone in Big Ten Conference play.

To say that the results have not been pretty recently would be an understatement. But there is hope on the horizon. Ron Zook is known as a recruiter, and he already has some major commitments that will make the Illini more competetive in the future, especially Chicago Vocational QB Isiah "Juice" Williams. Unfortunately, none of these commitments will be able to help Illinois this season.

Saturday in West Lafayette, the Illini only scored three points against a Purdue team that had not allowed less than 21 (to Michigan State last weekend) and only three teams to less than thirty (Michigan State, as well as Akron and Arizona) in its previous nine games. Sure, Purdue might be the biggest disappointment in the Big Ten this season, as the pre-season hope that they might have conference championship aspirations faded quicker than Paris Hilton's engagement to Paris Latsis, but that does not mean Joe Tiller's Boilermakers did not have on offense and defense to dominate the Illini on both sides of the ball.

Just a quick perusal of the box score shows how lopsided this game was, and I am thankful to Comcast for not being a partner with ESPN360 to keep me from watching this monstrosity that was a football game.

Illinois only forced 13 third down from the Boilermakers, and Purdue converted on 6 of them. Purdue managed to amass 30 first downs on the game. The averaged 6.8 yards per pass play, and managed to gain 393 yards.

Illinois on the other hand committed four turnovers (three interceptions and one fumble), only averaged 2.4 yards per pass, and committed 11 penalties for 95 yards. The most troubling line from the Illini's box score is the number of penalties the Illini committed and the turnovers. Illinois is not going to be a team that beats you based on talent alone, so they need to execute better, and the high number of turnovers and penalties show the Illini are not executing, and are not a disciplined team on the field. Both of these things would be something you would have hoped to have seen improve as the season wore on, but for the Illini this season they seem to have gotten worse as Ron Zook has been toying with the lineup to get younger and more athletic players in the game, but this seems (I say seems because I have no empirical data to back up my assumption) to have forced an increase in mistakes (turnovers) and penalties.

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