By David Mercer
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — If ever a team could use a week off , it would Illinois after Saturday’s 34-10 home loss to Western Michigan.
The Broncos (3-0) have now beaten two Big Ten teams this fall, and they’re getting a handful of votes in the Top 25 . The way they won left the Illini (1-2) groping for answers.
Illinois rushed for a paltry 3 yards, while giving up 287 yards on the ground and 487 total. The Illini trailed 24-7 at halftime to a team they scheduled as a likely win, and one the University of Illinois paid $1.2 million to make the trip to Champaign.
“I don’t know” was the go-to line for many players as they tried to explain what went wrong.
The one thing the Illini can’t do as they open the Big Ten season Oct. 1 at No. 20 Nebraska is dwell on the loss to the Broncos, Illinois coach Lovie Smith said.
“You have to have a short memory,” he said. “What you can’t do is let Western Michigan beat you twice.”
A lot went wrong against the Broncos. Tackling was a problem. Both the offensive and defensive lines were dominated at times. And Smith said his quarterback, Wes Lunt, did not throw the ball down field when he could and should have.
Smith said this week’s practices would be more like training camp than the typical in-season practice routine, focused on fundamentals.
Just three games into the season, Lunt and other players are talking about the need to do something like soul searching before they begin a run of conference games that will start with the Cornhuskers and include both No. 4 Michigan and No. 8 Michigan State over six weeks.
“I think it might be a good thing with the bye. We can kind of look each other in the eyes this next week and see what we need to get better on and really focus on ourselves,” Lunt said. “Because I think that’s the problem, ourselves more than anybody else.”
Added tight end Ainslee Johnson, “We’ve just got to communicate better as an offense and just not look to point the finger at each other.”