Postscript, Wisconsin


Nathan
Oct 3, 2022
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10 Comments

Like Robert, I'm from the St. Louis metro area.

In a former life, I was an intern at one of the St. Louis radio stations, 590 The Fan. In 2011, I interned for the morning show, The Morning After, and also covered the Cardinals for the show using the station's press credential. None of it paid much, but it was good experience, and I was young enough and free enough to do it.

I'm still friends with the guys on the show, which is now on the FM dial, and I still listen on occasion. Last week, I was listening to the host, Tim McKernan, jokingly talk about how Missouri was going to shock the world in Columbia on Saturday night by beating No. 1-ranked Georgia -- I mean, it was a joke at the time, at least -- and I had a realization.

We no longer can joke about Illinois football.

The way he talked about Mizzou beating the Bulldogs was the way we used to jest about Illinois stunning the college football landscape by beating an Ohio State or Michigan or even the good Iowa teams. And when we did pull off a major upset, like 2019 against Wisconsin or last season in Happy Valley, it was huge news.

Illinois beating Wisconsin in Madison was not huge news. Don't get me wrong -- almost nobody was picking us to win, and it was shocking to see how soundly we disposed of a team that's been a Big Ten West power for three decades. But Illinois beating Wisconsin in Madison didn't lead the news on Sunday morning, because Illinois beating Wisconsin in Madison is no longer implausible.

For instance, I religiously listen to the Cover 3 Podcast. On my Monday morning commute, I got through 33 minutes of their Saturday night instant reaction pod. And sure, there were big games to discuss -- Georgia's near-miss, TCU thumping Oklahoma, Bryce Young leaving the Arkansas game, etc. -- but there wasn't a single mention of Illinois-Wisconsin in the first 33 minutes of the show. I'm sure they'll get there eventually, but the point remains -- a 34-10 conference road win by Illinois was not a big story.

Tim can make jokes about Mizzou upsetting Georgia. Indiana fans can facetiously say the world will be put on notice when the Hoosiers best No. 4 Michigan in Bloomington this weekend. But we no longer can joke about Illinois football.

Nothing seems impossible anymore.

-Is anyone really surprised that a Bret Bielema team in Madison crushed the opposing team's will with a persistent ground game, game-managing quarterback and suffocating defense?

-Along those lines, it's fascinating that Bielema prevented Paul Chryst from tying his record for wins as the Wisconsin head coach with Saturday's victory, and even more fascinating that Chryst will remain at that number in perpetuity following his firing Sunday.

He's gonna live in their heads rent-free for the foreseeable future, and now they have to continue to stare at his name on that list, behind only Barry Alvarez, for years, too.

-This in incredibly nitpicky, but I felt like Illinois might have gotten away with one late in the second quarter.

After Wisconsin pinned them deep with roughly a minute left in the half, Bielema decided to pack it in. The kneel on the first play ran the clock, but Tommy DeVito took his second knee with 14 seconds on clock.

I don't know if there was something unspoken between Bielema and Chryst, or if Chryst was maybe just so focused on getting to the locker room and getting ready for the second half that he wasn't paying attention, but if I was the Wisconsin coach I would have used my second timeout with 14 seconds and used my final timeout after the third-down knee to force Hugh Robertson to punt with his heels on the back of the end zone. A fortunate break for DeVito and the Illini, methinks.

-I was at the Wisconsin game last year.

I've talked about this before in this space, and I'll do it again in a few paragraphs -- that's what we call (bad, obvious) foreshadowing, kids -- but every year my best friends and I make a pilgrimage to Champaign to tailgate, catch a game and generally act like we're 18 years old again. The 36-year-old father of two shotgunning beers in the grass lot? That's me, for one day every year. I then return to my normal programming on Sunday for another 364 days until we do it all over again.

We've historically always picked bad games to attend, save a few. In 2013, an abbreviated version of the group went to the 60-35 beatdown against Ohio State, for some reason. In 2014, the Purdue game was somewhat competitive, but the weather was miserable -- high of 50, windy, spitting rain. It was unpleasant, to say the least.

We skipped 2015 due to major life events, but we were back at it in 2016 for North Carolina under the lights. It was one of the few good games we've attended. The 2017 trip was missing some key regulars but saw a 20-7 win over Western Kentucky -- good result, meh time. In 2018, AJ was so mad about the Purdue game that he left at halftime. The 2019 game against Nebraska was another good game but another loss, and the 2020 trip was cancelled by a global pandemic.

Which brings us back to 2021 and Wisconsin. None of those games listed above -- AJ's Purdue tantrum included -- were as demoralizing as last year's game against the Badgers. It was the definition of having the air sucked from the stadium. The only thing that was less likely than stopping the Wisconsin running game was moving the ball on offense.

All of which is to say, 2021 couldn't have been further away. In that loss, Chez Mellusi and Braelon Allen rushed for a combined 276 yards. It was especially noteworthy for Allen, who, by virtue of being a true freshman, had just 49 career rushing yards coming into the game. Wisconsin got whatever it wanted on offense, and no combination of Artur Sitkowski and Brandon Peters had an answer for Jack Sanborn and the Badgers defense.

As Michael Scott once wisely said, well, well, well, how the turntables.

-I haven't talked much about the actual game -- plays, players, coaches -- because Robert covered it pretty succinctly in his recap. This was just a thorough dressing down that was borderline boring with how little of a chance Wisconsin had of keeping up in the second half.

-As mentioned, my group of friends finds a weekend to get to Champaign every year, and this upcoming weekend is that weekend.

As in 2016, we've been #blessed with another contest under the lights, this time against Iowa. Unlike in 2016, we're gonna strive to have everyone in the group make it into the game this year.

I couldn't be more excited. I'm always excited to get back to Champaign, which will forever hold a special place in my heart, but that excitement is usually 90 percent about being back on campus with my best friends (none of whom are alums, as it were, but all of whom also look forward to the trip with great anticipation) and 10 percent about the actual game.

This year, that split is roughly 51-49. Illinois is capital-g Good and a favorite against Iowa for the first time since the Eisenhower administration, I believe, meaning a night game at Memorial Stadium should be a better atmosphere than 99 percent of crowds since that North Carolina game. Add in a favorable weather forecast and you've got a recipe for what the kids call a ponyshow.

I'll be there. Will you?

Comments

Tolkien73 on October 3, 2022 @ 12:16 PM

I'll be there! Section 107 in the HOUSE!

Nathan on October 3, 2022 @ 12:46 PM

Love it!

ChiefSTL6 on October 3, 2022 @ 12:43 PM

FREE DOTEM

Nathan on October 3, 2022 @ 12:45 PM

You got them serpent heads, boy?

illinois81 on October 3, 2022 @ 02:42 PM

High of only 57 anticipated. Will likely drop into the 40s (poss lower) during the game. Although no rain in the forecast, I would not call that favorable. Never-the-less, I will be there in orange!

Nathan on October 3, 2022 @ 05:19 PM

Yeah, fair. Could be better, could be worse. But I’ll take it!

CCIllini on October 3, 2022 @ 03:56 PM

FREE DOTEM !!!!

Nathan on October 3, 2022 @ 05:20 PM

I don’t have the power to suspend you for two days’ time, but if I could…

HailToTheOrange on October 3, 2022 @ 10:19 PM

Me and a buddy flying in from the Bay Area this weekend. ILL!!!

jpbrown on October 4, 2022 @ 11:46 AM

Let's go!!! Kudos to you

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