I wrote most of these Saturday night, but the web was crowded and these notes didn't make the cut. So I present them to you with some Sunday afternoon updates at the bottom.
Yes, I should probably put the updates at the top...but then you might not read until the end, no?
CHAMPAIGN --- It seems clear new Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas will be much more visible at football games than Ron Guenther.
When it came time for the coin toss prior to Illinois’ 33-15 season-opening win over Arkansas State on Saturday, six people from the Illini sideline strode toward midfield holding hands with their arms pointing toward the sky.
The group consisted of captains Jeff Allen, Jack Cornell, Trulon Henry and Tavon Wilson…and Thomas and his 16-year-old daughter, Meredith.
Thomas, who began his tenure officially on Aug. 29, accepted an invitation to be part of the ceremony.
Illinois officials thought it a good way for the fans to welcome Thomas to town, but he wound up hearing boos because Arkansas State’s players ran on the field just as the PA announcer said his name.
Thomas spent a good chunk of the game on Illinois’ sideline, then made sure to share a handshake and a smile with Ron Zook, defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase and others as they headed off the field toward the locker room.
The football team repaid him by awarding Thomas the game ball.
“He’s excited to be here,” Zook said. “Obviously we’re excited to have him here. I congratulated him because he got his first win as an athletic director with the football program.”
Not long after, the former Cincinnati AD headed toward Huff Hall for his third women’s volleyball match of the weekend.
Illinois’ offense produced 202 rushing yards and 267 passing yards. It converted 12 of 18 third-down situations.
It didn’t commit a penalty for the first time since 1993. It didn’t commit a turnover until Miles Osei’s fumble in the final minute.
But offensive coordinator Paul Petrino thinks he should see more.
“There were a couple of things during the game I’m not happy with,” Petrino said. “A couple points during the game where we didn’t execute well enough.
“It’s a good thing, you know. We did a lot of good things. We can build on winning, but then get after their (butt) and really go out and get better this week in practice.”
Illinois entered fall camp with fifth-year senior Craig Wilson as the starting nose tackle, which allowed freshman All-American Akeem Spence to move from the nose to Corey Liuget’s old spot as the “3” technique tackle.
That lasted until the Illini broke Camp Rantoul. That’s when the defensive coaches told 270-pound defensive end Glenn Foster he’d move to the “3” technique and bump Spence back to the nose.
“I hold my own,” Foster said. “I can get off the ball and I have my speed and leverage. I’ve just been getting off the ball and exploding.”
NOT SO HOT
Though the game-time temperature was 96 degrees _ 2 degrees shy of the record-high in Champaign _ the Illini didn’t need to make many adjustments for the heat.
While they rotated eight defensive linemen for the four line spots and rotated three linebackers (Jonathan Brown, Ian Thomas and Houston Bates) at the two inside linebacker spots, they stuck with five players in the secondary.
Ron Zook noted after the game that nobody in an Illini uniform cramped up for the first time in his coaching career.
Starting Bandit end Michael Buchanan needed to be helped off the field in the fourth quarter after injuring his right knee. Zook said Sunday it's a "very, very, very" light sprain.
Defensive tackle Akeem Spence limped off the field in the fourth quarter, but Zook said he tweaked the same ankle that bothered him during fall camp and should be fine.
Wideout A.J. Jenkins suffered a quadriceps strain that left him riding the bicycle (and smiling and laughing) during the fourth quarter.
QB Reilly O'Toole's right shoulder could be a sprain according to Zook. Sounds like he might not throw during Monday's practice, but that's the extent of it. Look for him to get more snaps Saturday against South Dakota State.