Illinois Football: 4 observations from the Illini loss to Virginia

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Illinois football

Sep 11, 2021; Charlottesville, Virginia, USA; Virginia Cavaliers Keytaon Thompson (99) carries the ball to score a touchdown as Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Kerby Joseph (25) defends in the third quarter at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Illinois football team fell to 1-2 on Saturday as the Virginia Cavaliers carved us up in a 42-14 rout.

This was not a fun Illini game to watch. Less than five minutes into the game, the Cavaliers were already up 14-0. Things started bad and would eventually get even worse. Illinois gave up a ton of passing yards and couldn’t get anything going on offense. Everything that could go wrong went wrong.

Here are four observations from the Illinois football loss to Virginia.

1. Pass defense is a major issue

When you see Illinois giving up 42 points, one would think the entire defense is bad. But that isn’t the case at all. The Illini actually have some solid pieces on defense, but they are lacking in pass defense greatly.

I have been impressed with the Illini rush defense through three games this season. The 3-4 defense tends to give up more rushing yards, but the defensive line has been able to hold their own. For the season, the Illini have allowed 4.2 yards per attempt on the ground, which ranks No. 65 in the nation. That isn’t bad considering the teams we have played are run-heavy programs.

On Saturday, Illinois ended up holding Virginia to just 4.0 yards per carry. But sadly, the pass defense reared its ugly head. The Illini would end up surrendering 423 yards through the air.

Looking back at the history of the program, the 423 passing yards Virginia had on Saturday are the most passing yards Illinois has allowed through the 2000 season. Sports-reference.com doesn’t go back further than 2000 on defensive stats. Honestly, it is likely the Illini gave up the most passing yards in school history against the Cavaliers.

All blame lies on the secondary. Illinois just doesn’t have the talent at defensive back to stop a team from passing the ball. Our best cornerback is Tony Adams, and he was getting burnt quite often. Devon Witherspoon has his good moments, but he was shredded all game long as well. Those are the two best options we have in the secondary, and they aren’t good enough.

I think the only option is to get more talent into the secondary, and that can’t happen until 2022 and beyond. The teams we run into this season that can throw the ball will tear us apart.

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