Let The "Juice" Play

After the loss to the Indiana Hoosiers in Memorial Stadium on Saturday, it's a look that I've seen before. I'm having a major flashback here. Losing is one thing - but the way the Illini lost may be tougher to swallow. Read here for "another" reporter's view on last Saturday's game.

After sitting and watching the Fighting Illini basically go in the tank, it was a look that appears to be the curse of the "Rons". What I mean by that is former Illini Head Coach Ron Turner (who's now with the Chicago Bears) did the same thing when he was the man in charge. What's that, you ask.

Turner can hold his hat on former and record breaking QB Kurt Kittner, but fans, remember how "conservative" Turner was with Kittner early on? His play calling was embarrassing. Turner stated, "When you have a young fella back there you can't give him too much or it could cost you later and your program later." Current Coach Ron Zook and Offensive Coordinator Mike Locksley can say what they will, but they held the Juice back from making plays. The Illini threw the ball all over the field the first quarter and as each minute grew the calls became tighter. So what if Indiana made adjustments; then you must do the same. Zook stated in his post game interview that he "wanted to run the football and not throw it all over the place." The problem with that is we saw tailback Pierre Thomas run the ball right up the middle each time - which made life easy for the Hoosiers.

Zook is starting to trust Williams a little more because in all his starts never has Williams come out throwing the ball with such confidence. Say what you will about this loss: missed tackles, missed extra point opportunities, special teams play. For me it was simple - holding back the Juice. Look at how the play calling has changed for the Chicago Bears right now. Last year they were "boring" to watch. Now they may have the best offense in the NFL because Turner feels QB Rex Grossman is more mature. Williams is a special kid with a lot of confidence. Holding him back like they did on Saturday won't help. Not only did they run Thomas up the gut because it was the safe thing do to, they didn't let Williams run the ball much either.

In a report in the Chicago Sun-Times, columnist Greg Couch Locksley said, "Look at our passing statistics. The success we had early was on play-action passes and trick plays." That was very discouraging to hear because if the Illini want to win games and put people in the seats, trust this kid and his abilities. No way am I saying that Juice will be an All Big Ten QB this season because there are things he needs to work on, for example, staying in the pocket and hitting receivers. Sure I see that, but how is the kid going to learn and become better with each game and for next year if he's not allowed to?

Bottom line - call me crazy if you want - as bad as Saturday's loss was this team could (and I say that lightly) pull out a few more wins than what most experts are giving them credit for. They beat MSU on the road, you saw them put up 32 points on Indiana, and believe it or not upsets happen in college football. Just ask last week's #2 team in the nation, the Auburn Tigers, who lost to an unranked Arkansas team. However, if the Illini are going to pull off any upsets - let the kid play his game.


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