ReliaQuest Bowl: Illinois’, Mississippi State’s ‘Air Raid’ renewed as a secondary under arms

ReliaQuest Bowl: Illinois', Mississippi State's 'Air Raid' renewed as a secondary under arms

TAMPA, Fla. – Do the statistics lie?

As a result of they inform the story of an Illinois protection that would match Mississippi State’s “Air Strike” offense and lead Illini to victory in Monday’s 8-4 crew ReliaQuest Bowl recreation.

Starring quarterback Will Rogers, the Bulldogs averaged 33.2 for 314.3 yards, capturing 49.1 per recreation. It appears to be like like an airborne run recreation with quick passes designed for yards after the catch. Rogers is the SEC profession chief in completions and holds MSU’s file for passing yards and goalscoring, and the Bulldogs are quantity 2 within the nation within the YAC division.

However the move protection has been Illini’s greatest power. They rank first nationally for effectivity (89.8), yards per strive (5.4), targets allowed (eight), and interferences (22). Illini additionally ranks first (30) in total takeaways and second in common scores allowed (12.3).

“As a defensive fan, the work they’ve accomplished aggressive protection this yr, the best way they’re purported to play, man, it is enjoyable to observe,” stated Bulldogs coach Zach Arnett, who was promoted from defensive coordinator two weeks in the past. After the sudden lack of Mike Leach. “I do know our guys simply loved watching it on movie as a result of that is how the protection is meant to be performed. They did an excellent job.”

However a lot of the heavy work was accomplished by NFL first-round decide All-American nook tie Devon Witherspoon and mid-round decide All-Massive Ten security Sydney Brown, each withdrew from the bowling recreation.

Not having Chase Brown, the nation’s second-highest runner – he additionally gave up – is a blow. But it surely have to be an much more significant issue for Illini if ​​her twin brother is not menacingly flying round and Witherspoon relentlessly locking in patrons.

A tough begin for Aaron Henry, the model new defensive coordinator who performs for Bret Bielema in Wisconsin, was promoted from defensive again coach after Ryan Walters left to tackle the lead position at Purdue. Rogers will unfold the ball to Rufus Harvey, Caleb Ducking, Lideatrick Griffin and others, and a revamped secondary crew must move, together with world-class cornering gamers Tyler Pressure and Xavier Scott, and top-notch security Matthew Bailey.

“Clearly,” stated Bielema, “our secondary participant needs to be in high form, as these guys name offense.”

It is most likely a “or else” state of affairs for Illinois, which is searching for its first nine-win season since 2007. The Bulldogs aren’t even 1000 yards off the sphere as a crew, and there is no cause to anticipate them to begin operating the ball now. .

“I’ve to study beneath the most effective ever at Coach Leach,” Arnett stated, “and I am doing my finest to repeat what he’ll do.”

And that is throwing the ball till Rogers’ proper arm appears to be like prefer it’s about to drop.

Since arriving right here, Illini has fed giraffes, managed an aquarium, splashed water on the seaside, and crushed MSU gamers in a pie-eating contest. However beating them on the sphere is a distinct deal. An airstrike is coming.

NOTES: Illinois could not do worse than the one time it performed in that recreation in 1991, after they misplaced 30-0 to Clemson in what was then known as the Corridor of Fame Bowl. Illini failed on his first offensive transfer, trailing 10-0 till he made his second transfer. … Bielema’s first bowling loss as a coach can also be right here, when it was known as the Outback Bowl in 2008 and Wisconsin misplaced 21-17 to Tennessee. … Illinois final performed Mississippi State in 1980 and the Bulldogs received 28-21 at Champaign.

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