|No. 24 Illinois hopes to fix bugs against Cajuns|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 12 September 2008 08:49|
The No. 24 Illini are scoring just over 44 points a game, but allowing 36, and have made a bad habit of giving up big plays.
The Illini have one chance left to tighten up their defense before the Big Ten schedule begins.
Illinois (1-1) hosts Louisiana-Lafayette Saturday before getting a week off. On Sept. 27, Illinois travels to No. 17 Penn State to start conference play.
Coach Ron Zook knows his team is a mixed bag right now, insists the problems can be fixed.
``We can't give up big plays, and that's what's happened to us,'' Zook said. ``You tackle the way you're supposed to and the way we can and this doesn't happen.''
Louisiana-Lafayette (0-1) is looking for an unlikely win on the road against a Big Ten school.
be ready for it,'' coach Ricky Bustle said. ``The Big Ten is a very physical conference and Illinois is a very physical football team.''
Illinois comes off a 47-21 win over FCS school Eastern Illinois. Travorus Bess sliced through the Illini defense for 183 yards on 15 carries - better than 12 yards a shot.
Bess, according to Illini defensive end Martez Wilson, benefited from poor tackling and lapses in fundamentals.
``We just weren't filling the gaps,'' he said. ``We would have a running back in the back field tackled for a loss, and someone would let him go and then he would gain another eight or 10 yards.''
Against the Ragin' Cajuns, the Illini run defense will be tested again.
Louisiana-Lafayette ran for 263 yards in their opener against Southern Mississippi. Quarterback Michael Desormeaux had 146 of those yards. Running back Tyrell Fenroy, who had 56 yards against Southern Miss, is 9 yards away from passing Brian Mitchell's 3,335 yards to become the top back in school history.
``The quarterback and the running back are going to be as good of running athletes as probably we're going to see,'' Zook said. ``It will be a test for our defense, and I think probably a test that we need.''
Illinois' no-huddle offense has been chugging right along.
Juice Williams has 184 yards rushing - 92 a game - and has thrown for 575 yards and six touchdowns. Williams has been effective finding receivers beyond primary target Arrelious Benn - nine Illini have caught balls so far, and six of those players have caught four or more passes.
Daniel Dufrene is quietly averaging 87 rushing yards a game behind Williams.
``Juice Williams has grown up and matured in their offense and they have good skill receivers around him,'' Bustle said. ``They do a great job spreading the ball around. I think tempo is the biggest thing we need to contend with.''
The biggest problem for the Cajuns might be their soft run defense. They gave up 427 rushing yards to Southern Miss, making Louisiana-Lafayette worst in the country against the run.
Zook hopes a win over Louisiana-Lafayette will build momentum heading into the off week and the Big Ten opener the following weekend.
He says he'd rather have a week off - the first Illinois has had during Zook's three-plus seasons - a little later in the year, after conference play starts. But he isn't complaining.
``It's fine. Ideally, maybe it's the middle of the season,'' Zook said. ``I'm so happy to have an open date, I'll take it wherever I can get it.''