Illini Lose Line Of Scrimmage, Game To Western Michigan

September 19, 2016
Western Michigan defenders close in on Illini quarterback Wes Lunt.

Western Michigan defenders including defensive end Andre Turner (#5, R) close in on Illini quarterback Wes Lunt. (#12, center).

Vashoune Russell

An old saying in football is that the game is won or lost in the line. On Saturday, Western Michigan's line outplayed Illinois on both offense and defense. The outcome, a 34-10 drubbing of the home team, demonstrated that the Lovie Smith rebuild will take some time.

Smith, the Illini's new head football coach, identified the line as a particular weakness.

 “We all knew that it would be --- like it is most games, but I think more so this game --- (a matter of) how our lines did, how our offensive line would block them, and how our defensive lines would control our rushing attack,” said Smith. “We didn’t do either one of those, of course, the way we expected.”

Team captain Joe Spencer, who anchors the offensive line from the center position, agreed.

“It’s inexcusable”, said Spencer. “That comes on the offensive line, and we had to pick that up as a unit. I’ve got to get everyone square on exactly what they’re doing. There’s confusion with that.”

The offensive line couldn't open holes for its running backs. Illinois finished with a minuscule three yards rushing. Quarterback Wes Lunt managed 312 yards passing, but the line didn't protect him well. He was sacked four times totaling 31 lost yards.

Illinois' defensive line allowed 287 rushing yards, mostly between the tackles.

Defensive end Carroll Phillips recorded a pair of sacks, and the team garnered five overall. But the Bronco offense largely avoided the vaunted Illini ends, by running plays between and around Phillips and Dawuane Smoot.

The Illini now have a bye week, which Lovie Smith called "ideal" in its timing. They'll return to action on October 1 at Nebraska, in their Big Ten opener.

Story source: WILL