A season-opening win and the play of sophomore quarterback Blaine Gabbert helped begin to provide some answers.
Gabbert and the 25th-ranked Tigers will try to follow a successful season debut with a victory in Saturday night's home opener against Bowling Green.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SPORTSBETTING.com have made
Following back-to-back Big 12 North titles and consecutive bowl game victories,
Wide receiver-kick returner Jeremy Maclin left for the NFL with two years of eligibility remaining, getting picked 16th overall by
In his first career start, Gabbert threw for 319 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 39 yards with a score. Danario Alexander had a career-high 10 receptions for 132 yards after missing time with a torn left ACL last season.
"I was really impressed with (Gabbert)," coach Gary Pinkel said. "He was focused. I think the whole team was focused. He showed a lot of toughness. It was a very good first performance."
The defense, under new coordinator Dave Steckel, forced two turnovers, recorded three sacks and did not give up a touchdown until the fourth quarter. The Tigers also limited Illini quarterback Juice Williams to 179 yards after he had 451 yards and five touchdowns in last season's matchup, a 52-42 win for
"You've got new guys stepping in and making plays," senior linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said. "Guys are hungry. They were eager to get on the field, and it was great for us."
One concern, however, is a running game that was mostly ineffective.
They'll also face an opponent that's had success against them and their coach.
The Falcons, who are 11-8 against major conference teams since that season, also split 10 games against Pinkel when he was at
Tyler Sheehan threw for 339 yards and both of his touchdown passes went to Freddie Barnes, who had a school-record 15 receptions for 157 yards.
The Tigers have won a school-record 11 straight non-conference games and nine in a row at home dating back to 2005.
Posted: 9/8/09 10:58PM ET