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Chase Brown is fast.
That's not news. You've seen him run. You probably watched Saturday's game. You know he's fast.
This weekend, though, I was reminded just how fast he is.
I was #blessed enough to get to watch the first half of Saturday's game in the living room. That's rare; usually I'm watching games on my laptop or my phone or listening to the great Brian Barnhart and Martin O'Donnell on the radio.
On Saturday, my six-year-old graciously moved downstairs to watch "Sonic the Hedgehog" and allowed me to turn on the game. My wife was doing some bookkeeping and my five-month-old is generally agreeable so long as he's being held, so I was able to watch the first half, infant in tow, uninterrupted. It was wonderful.
At halftime, I handed the baby over to my wife and took a quick shower -- when your favorite football team is only down four to a Conference USA opponent at halftime, you don't want to miss a second of the action. My wife still had the baby when he started to get fussy, so she fed him a bottle and he eventually fell asleep on her shoulder.
Here's a thing to know about my wife: she hates sports. Just zero tolerance for them. She's the kind of person who likes the Super Bowl for the snacks and wears a "I just hope both teams had fun" sweatshirt. I love that about her. (No, seriously.)
So, stuck on the couch for the duration of our son's nap, she took a look at the TV and said, "I'm not watching that." It was near the end of the third quarter, with Charlotte trailing by three and driving deep into the red zone, so I stalled for a few minutes to watch the last set of downs. When Kerby Joseph darted in front of the Charlotte tight end to break up the third-down pass in the end zone, I turned on "All American" for her and retreated to the bedroom, expecting to turn on a 17-17 ballgame.
What I turned on instead was a 24-14 contest. In the time it took me to load the FOX Sports app, the Charlotte kicker had pushed a 39-yard field goal attempt and Chase Brown had raced 80 yards to the house on the next play. In the blink of an eye, a tied game heading into the fourth quarter turned into a 10-point Illini lead.
I guess the lesson is, don't blink. Because Chase Brown, he's fast, man.
-I can't recall a time when I was more angry about an Illinois touchdown than I was on the Daniel Barker score.
The play before, Brandon Peters failed to spot a wide open Isaiah Williams in the flat and instead tried to force one to Luke Ford. Then, on the very next play, he missed Chase Brown in the same spot, with the same open field ahead of him, and instead squeezed a ball into a tight window that Barker still had to adjust to catch. There's a difference between a good throw and a bad throw that has a good result. This was not a good throw.
It's one two-play snapshot of a long game, but it illustrates the issue with Peters thus far this season. He seems impossibly lost most of the time, only really looking decisive when he's in a hurry or the play doesn't ask him to do too much.
Yes, the ground game got going and it seems to be what Bret Bielema wants to hang his hat on as an offensive identity, but another reason that running the ball is preferable is because it only requires Peters to handle the snap and turn the right direction. The less he's asked to do right now, the better. And while that got them by against Charlotte, it's hard to imagine that working against Wisconsin.
-I have virtually no hot uniform #takes, but I'll be honest -- Bielema seems interested in them to an extent, and I think the gray ghost uniforms have sort of run their course. I hope he makes a change for homecoming this year.
-Two months ago, who would have guessed that Kerby Joseph and Josh McCray would be the guys getting featured in Big Ten Network promos and described as key players in important games?
-In a vacuum, the decision to go for it on fourth-and-two on the Charlotte 25-yard line during that second quarter touchdown drive is a good one. It obviously worked, and more importantly, the rationale for the decision was sound. It's the decision we've been clamoring for Bielema to make for weeks.
The problem, then, is that it's the decision we've been clamoring for Bielema to make for weeks. To decide to go for it there, after two straight weeks of going conservative and ending up on the wrong side of the final score, was almost a slap in the face to fans who first-guessed those decisions against Maryland and Purdue. Oh, now you want to get aggressive?
I'm sure the thinking behind the decision was, we should be able to impose our will against these guys. And I think that kind of mentality is a big part of Bielema's philosophy on offense. Here's to hoping he starts believing it against Big Ten opponents.
-A group of my good friends has made the pilgrimage to Champaign every year to tailgate, take in a football game and act like we're 18 years old again. (At least, I use it as an excuse to act 18 again.) Our first trip was in 2012 for my bachelor party, and while guys have missed a stray year here or there for the birth of children or other big life events, we've been able to keep it going for close to a decade now.
We'll be in town for Saturday's tilt, and I cannot wait. In the past, the idea of going to an away game has been floated -- see a new campus, be in enemy territory for a change, etc. -- but I've always been resistant because of how much I love Champaign. Like I'm sure many of you feel as well, campustown was a central part of some of my most formative years. We live and die with this dumb football team, but the University of Illinois holds a special place in my heart for a bevy of reasons that have nothing to do with sports. I can't wait to be back.
So, if you see a guy clinging to the Alma Mater or singing "Hail to the Orange" a little too aggressively at halftime, pay him no mind. He's just happy to be home.