Keeping score: Forte, coordinators and 'Dance in the Desert'


Keeping score: Forte, coordinators and 'Dance in the Desert'

Always fun to visit Thursdays at 10 a.m. with Danny Mac and Spiegs on The McNeil and Spiegel Show on WSCR-AM 670 The Score and today was no exception.

Maybe fun isnt exactly the right word, considering the down state of matters at Halas Hall. Mac was sputtering at how Mike Tices offense continues to ignore the receiving talents of Matt Forte and Spiegs wondered if this offense and the way it blocks is really a fit for Forte.

My thought on using Forte as a receiver is that it actually has changed of late; Forte caught six passes at Minnesota and five against the Packers, which is more than one-third of his entire receiving total (30) to that point of the season.

But the bigger point, as I discussed in a previous look at how Cutler is in fact very involved in game planning, is that this is absolutely not all on Tice. Cutler, and assistant Jeremy Bates, are involved in the game plans and then Cutler also has the option of audibles, which Tice gave him.

If Forte is not getting the ball, a major part of that rests with Cutler simply by virtue of the offenses structure.

And maybe Forte works better in a scheme like the zone-blocking system that works so well for Arian Foster, as Spiegs noted. Unfortunately thats not going to happen in Chicago unless there is a complete offensive overhaul. A key for Forte is staying with his one-cut strength and get away from the jump-stop-cut that James Allen once epitomized in the Bears offense of a year ago.

Spiegs also mused on what the Bears in fact could do for an offensive coordinator if Lovie Smith is retained. Smith with one year remaining on his contract will have a tough time selling the O-coordinator job, as Dick Jauron once did and had to promote from within in the person of John Shoop.

The options could be to hunker down and live with Tice, who certainly was a positive influence on the offense under Martz, or promoting Bates from quarterback coach to coordinator. Have to think about that one.

That led into thoughts of whether the Bears can or will win the final two games, and Mac was spot-on in sensing that the conventional thinking that Detroit will be the rougher one may be off base. This will not be a dance by any means, was his observation. That would be a yes.

The Cardinals are a better defense than the Lions, and with the state of the Bears offense right now, Chicago scoring is difficult to envision.

Well see. Curious to see where things stand next Thursday after the Arizona game has been played and Detroit remains.

Follow in-game with me on BearsTalk BearsPulse at Ill be doing the game coverage via Twitter (@CSNMoonMullin) with added info and well have other coverage folded in as well.

Report: Jeff George Jr. starting at QB for Illini vs. Michigan


Report: Jeff George Jr. starting at QB for Illini vs. Michigan

Jeff George Jr. will reportedly get the start at quarterback when the Illini take on Michigan this afternoon in Ann Arbor.

According to a report from the News-Gazette's Bob Asmussen, neither Wes Lunt nor Chayce Crouch will be able to play in Saturday's game, forcing George into starting duty.

Lunt was knocked out of Illinois' loss to Purdue two weeks ago and did not play last weekend against Rutgers. Crouch, who took over for Lunt against Purdue and rushed for 137 yards in that game, started in the win over Rutgers, but he apparently suffered a shoulder injury in that game.

George got a very small bit of action in this season's Week 1 win over Murray State, but this will be his first career start.

George is the son of Jeff George, the former Illinois quarterback who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1990 NFL Draft.

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Not all losses are created equal.

When Lincoln-Way East suffered a 35-30 defeat in Week 3 to Homewood-Flossmoor, the Griffins took positives away from the loss. They had held a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, battled back from adversity in the second half and had a chance to win the game in the final minute. Even that loss in retrospect appeared acceptable – if there ever was an acceptable loss – as the Vikings are currently 8-0 and in their other seven wins have outscored their opponents by an average of 38 points.

By Week 3 the Griffins were still acclimating to the unique situation of playing at game speed with a host of Lincoln-Way North students who had transferred in the offseason. They had a defense made up almost entirely of first-year starters, and the offense was still rotating quarterbacks Jake Arthur and Max Shafer to figure out how to maximize their talent. By many standards the Griffins went toe-to-toe for 48 minutes with a team also considered to be a favorite for a state title.

The same couldn’t be said for the Griffins’ effort last Friday night in Bradley.

An esteemed program with a 2005 state title and 16 consecutive playoff appearances to their resume, it isn’t often the Griffins are embarrassed on Friday night. But those were the words head coach Rob Zvonar used in his postgame speech to the team following their 38-21 loss to the undefeated Boilermakers.

“We chose to play the game,” Zvonar began. “Which means you play it to the greatest of your ability and you honor each other, God, everybody by your play. And we didn’t do that tonight.”

There were plenty of reasons the Griffins suffered their second loss of the season. That is came in such blowout fashion was the bigger surprise. The Boilermakers found the end zone on their first two possessions, rallying behind a raucous home crowd hoping to see their team go 8-0 for the first time in school history.

The Griffins defense, which had allowed 27 points the previous three weeks combined, were on their heels as the Boilermakers used misdirection and a few trick plays to set up the short touchdown runs.

The Griffins offense moved down the field on their fourth possession, moving inside the Boilermakers red zone looking to get on the board. But Iowa commit Camron Harrell stepped in front of a Griffins screen pass on 4th down and returned it 89 yards for a score. On the final play of the first quarter, with the Griffins moving again, Damien Williams read a route and picked off Jake Arthur, returning it 53 yards for a score to give the Boilermakers a shocking 28-0 lead after 12 minutes.

After a spirited halftime speech from Zvonar, the Griffins came out firing in the second half, scoring on a touchdown run from Nigel Muhammad and a Jeremy Nelson 27-yard reception from Arthur. But the Boilermakers weathered the storm each time Lincoln-Way East attempted a comeback. The Griffins only got as close as 14 points late in the fourth quarter.

“I think we came into this game not ready,” said Muhammad, who finished with 164 yards on 24 carries. “But we’re all a team and we all accept this loss together.”

Added senior Jack Carroll, who finished with a team-high nine tackles: “We have this sick feeling in our stomach right now but the best thing is (next) Friday we can come back and get it out of our stomach. If we lose again in the playoffs then we’ll have that sick feeling in our stomach for the rest of our lives.”

That’s now the reality for the Griffins, and a silver lining if there ever could be one for such a blowout loss. With the playoffs a mere week away – the Griffins defeated Lockport on Friday to finish the regular season 7-2 – the feeling each of them felt getting on the bus back to Frankfort will linger with them and act as a reminder of how quickly things can slip away.

“We’re trying to put this behind us,” said Max Shafer. “We’re going to try to get hot and make a run in the playoffs.”

In a loaded 8A class, the Griffins’ two regular-season losses have already knocked them down in the seeding process. While any loss before Week 9 means little in the long run – the Griffins locked up a playoff berth weeks ago – it also means a more difficult road to Champaign. But that’s the reality for Zvonar’s group, and whether it’s a defense playing faster or an offense avoiding costly mistakes, the Griffins are running out of time to right the ship.

But Zvonar believes such a loss as the team suffered last Friday night can act as the catalyst to doing just that. The Griffins have established themselves as one of the state’s premier programs, and that means not riding the highs too high, and not breaking apart when the lows come. Last Friday night was as low as Zvonar had seen any of his 16 teams, but the silver lining occurred in that his squad now knows what it has to do to avoid it when it’s win or go home.

“What we also think is that the program is built on a solid foundation, so when you take a little hit like that you battle back and you go back to what you believe in and what you know can be successful. And that’s fundamentals and keeping things simple, and the kids have bounced back and they’re not acceptable to them what occurred to them, so very proud of their effort and the way they’re working.