CHAMPAIGN — Illinois was so bad in a 29-10 loss to Northwestern on Saturday at -Memorial Stadium, it might not be the worst idea if the 6-6 Illini hand off their bowl -eligibility to the 3-9 Wildcats.
Just kidding. Terrible suggestion.
“Talking today about the disappointment that happened out there, it’s easy to do,” -Illinois coach Lovie Smith said. “[But] I’m more than ready to play better football than that. We’re going to get rid of that feeling and get ready to play in a bowl game.”
No such luxury for the Wildcats, who can start looking ahead to 2020. And what better place to start than at quarterback, which was the story of a lost season in 2019?
TJ Green, Hunter Johnson, Aidan Smith — all could be back in the mix, though perhaps it’s unlikely. And what about sophomore -Andrew Marty, the team’s fourth QB to get a shot in 2019? He was the best player on the field against the Illini.
“I went in knowing I was going to be -running the football, which is fun,” Marty said after a 30-rush, 111-yard, two-touchdown day with his impressive legs.
Marty also would have had two touchdown passes if not for a first-quarter drop in the end zone by wide-open tight end Trey Pugh.
There will be much to sort out at the most important position on any football team. What will become of Green’s medical redshirt status? Will Johnson, the Clemson transfer whose play was enormously disappointing, keep trying to get it right in Evanston? Those questions are merely starting points.
Illinois’ pregame speech was delivered — in person — by Bobby Roundtree, the former defensive end who suffered a severe spinal-cord injury in a swimming accident in May and has spent months rehabbing at the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab in Chicago.
The 21-year-old also appeared on the field, in a wheelchair, to be acknowledged by the crowd.
“It’s kind of hard to express into words. A lot of us have been there the entire time with Bobby,” Smith said. “I’ve seen him from the first night he had that accident.
“If you saw what he does on a daily basis to get himself back here on campus, you’d have to be pumped up. He’s been working so hard to get back here with his teammates, so you can imagine the emotion that’s involved.”
A good doink
Illinois junior kicker James McCourt doinked a 50-yard field-goal attempt off an upright and over the crossbar for a successful try. It was his fourth field goal of 50-plus yards this season, tying him for the most in school history.