TACKLING: If you asked Illinois coaches and defensive players this week what they worked in the two weeks since the team last played, you probably got the same one-word answer: tackling. The Illini pinned many of their problems in their last game, a 34-24 loss to Washington — and the 600-plus yards they gave up — on bad tackling. So big chunks of the past two weeks were spent on wrapping up and dropping ball carriers. Nothing fancy, just the basics.
MIAMI’S MODEST IMPROVEMMENT: Miami’s 0-3 start isn’t what Treadwell had in mind for his third season at his alma mater. But he says there are signs — small ones — that the Redhawks are getting better. He saw one in holding Cincinnati scoreless for most of last week’s 14-0 loss. And in even being able to move the ball for 87 yards — the Redhawks’ total production for the day. Miami is dead last in offense in the Football Bowl Subdivision at 149.3 yards a game and 120th — three teams are worse — in total defense, giving up 545 a game.
“Two weeks ago at (Kentucky), we were struggling really to make a first down,” he said, talking about Miami’s 41-7 loss. “So at least we’re making improvement in terms of being able to put a few big plays up and being able to move the ball at times.”
REDHAWKS’ BEST WEAPON: Punter Zac Murphy has the best average in the country, 49.8 yards a kick. Six of his 28 punts — that’s more than nine punts a game, by the way — have landed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. Five have been touchbacks. That long punt? Eighty-four yards against Cincinnati.
ILLINOIS IN THE RED: Illinois’ offense is greatly improved over last season. But the Illini still aren’t scoring the way they’d like or, with a defense giving up 492.7 yards and 28.3 points a game, will likely need to. Illinois is averaging 37 points a game, but in three games the Illini have only reached the red zone 11 times, 3.7 a game. The Illini have scored touchdowns in six of their trips and tried five field goals, making three. “It’s probably the most disappointing thing right now, not scoring enough touchdowns,” offensive coordinator Bill Cubit said. “I’ve got to do a little better job of game planning.”