Illinois Football: Illini Beat Themselves in First Loss, but No Reason for Panic

Todd ThorstensonAnalyst IOctober 16, 2011

CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 15:  Jason Ford #21 of the Illinois Fighting Illini moves to recover his own fumble as he is hit by John Simon #54 of the Ohio State Buckeyes at Memorial Stadium on October 15, 2011 in Champaign, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It's official, Illini Nation has now gone into meltdown mode.

On Saturday, the Illini dropped their first game of the season 17-7 to an underwhelming Ohio State team and by doing so have sent many of their fans into a state of panic.

Yes, for the first time this year Illinois football has to rebound from a loss—and they only have themselves to blame for it.

Spin it however you want, but the Illini lost this game because of turnovers, period.

There have been many questioning Ron Zook and his coaching decisions, which is certainly a debatable topic, however Zook didn’t lose this game—the players did.

The Illini turned the ball over three times to OSU’s zero—and there’s your ball game.

Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller completed one pass the entire game, granted it went for a touchdown, but again he completed one pass all day—one pass.

If a team only completes one pass throughout an entire game, they probably have no business winning that game.

Yes, the Buckeyes rushed for 211 yards, but the only time they really threatened to score was after Illini turned the ball over in their own territory, twice.

Make no mistake, this one is on the offense and they will tell you the same.

Trailing 3-0 coming out of halftime, the Illini got the ball first and promptly turned the ball over on the first series as QB Nate Scheelhaase threw an interception that OSU returned to the 12-yard line.  That set up the first score for the Buckeyes—a 12-yard run by Dan Herron.

Then trailing 10-0 to begin the fourth quarter and still very much in the game, A.J. Jenkins fumbled the ball and it was recovered by the Buckeyes on the Illinois' 37. Throw in a personal foul penalty and Ohio State had the ball first and 10 at the Illini's 22—thanks offense.

Three plays later Buckeye QB Braxton Miller completed his only pass of the day, a 17-yard touchdown pass to put Ohio State up 17-0 with 13 minutes to play in the game.

Illinois outgained the Buckeyes 285 to 228 on the day, but just couldn’t sustain anything offensively until late in the fourth quarter, when they finally punched the ball in.  Give some credit to the Ohio State defense as they played a solid game, but honestly Illinois just gave this one away.

The better team did not win this game, but that’s going to happen.  Now it’s up to Illinois to learn from this game and get back on track next week against Purdue.

Despite what many fans may think, this loss is not the end of the world for Illinois. It’s just disappointing.

They still have a chance to make some noise in their remaining five games as they play both of the teams—Penn State and Wisconsin—that are ahead of them in their division.

It’s not going to be easy by any means as they also have a date with Michigan on the schedule, but if they can eliminate the mistakes, the Illini will be fine.

To quote Cosmo Kramer, "let's not press the panic button."  Not yet, anyway.