|Ryan Van Bergen (#53) was a force to be reckoned with all night.|
(image via MGoBlue.com)
Let's see more of this guy on offense . . . Martavious Odoms. Odoms was struggling to see the field earlier in the year, partly because he was recovering from a broken bone in his forearm. It was frustrating to see a key player from the past few seasons end his career by barely seeing the field. Luckily, that trend appears to be ending. He got what seemed to be the most playing time of the season against the Illini, when he had 2 receptions for 46 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown reception from Devin Gardner to go up 24-7. Odoms was also wide open in the endzone early in the game, but Denard Robinson overthrew him.
Let's see less of this guy on offense . . . umm . . . Denard Robinson at quarterback. Bring on the anger. Robinson has clearly regressed this season, and I'm not going to blame it entirely on offensive coordinator Al Borges. Borges hasn't made the same playcalls that allowed Robinson to put up good numbers last season, but much of that is on Robinson's shoulders, too. He was unable to hit wide open receivers early in the year, and his inability to hit the deep ball has been extremely maddening. I described Robinson last year as "wildly accurate" because of his throws that would be catchable but wouldn't allow receivers to run after the catch. There was another fine example on Saturday evening when Robinson hit tight end Kevin Koger down the left sideline, and Koger was so wide open that he had time to stop, catch the ball, get started again . . . and get dragged down at the 2-yard line. If that's even a decent throw, it's an easy touchdown. Devin Gardner at least deserves a prolonged look if Robinson isn't getting it done, because Robinson is turnover-prone and his rushing has been disappointing for the last several weeks.
Let's see more of this guy on defense . . . Thomas Gordon. Gordon has been a turnover machine with 1 interception, 4 fumble recoveries, and 2 forced fumbles on the season. He's also the team's second-leading tackler, despite coming off the bench for the past two games. Meanwhile, senior Troy Woolfolk has been inserted at safety despite clearly being unhealthy; Woolfolk has yet to create a turnover in his career.
Let's see less of this guy on defense . . . Troy Woolfolk. This is obvious, considering the above paragraph. Woolfolk is hurting the team by playing such significant minutes. I wish he would have been allowed to get healthier earlier in the season, but he wasn't. It's pretty apparent that he won't be healthy during the regular season, although hopefully he can get his body right by the bowl game.
Play of the game . . . Jordan Kovacs' forced fumble and Gordon's recovery. Illinois had just stopped Michigan on the goal line and had some emotional momentum. Running back Jason Ford popped free for 8 yards up the middle when Kovacs put his facemask on the ball, which fell to the ground while Gordon jumped on it. If it hadn't been obvious previously, it seemed to me right there that this day just wasn't going to go well for the Illini.
MVP of the game . . . Ryan Van Bergen. The defensive tackle/end had 7 tackles, 3 tackles for loss (for 28 yards), and 2.5 sacks. Mike Martin (9 tackles, 1/2 a sack) would be a decent choice, and so would Fitzgerald Toussaint (27 carries, 192 yards, 1 touchdown). But on a night when Illinois couldn't do anything consistently on defense, in large part because quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was under pressure, I have to give it to the guy who took him to the ground a few times.