Missed opportunities plague Bears again


Missed opportunities plague Bears again

The Packers backward pass when they received a Bears fourth-quarter punt looked like something out of a comedy sketch. The Bears, surprised as anyone, were attentive enough to recover the fumble created by said screwy play, on Green Bays 16-yard line.

Down 21-10 at the time, the Bears had a golden opportunity to get a touchdown and put the squeeze on the Packers. But much like a third-quarter drive where the Bears couldnt capitalize big on Packers' miscues, they couldnt do it this time, either.

The Bears offensive issues were magnified on two second-half drives in a 21-13 loss to Green Bay. On the third-quarter one, back-to-back Packers penalties set the Bears up at Green Bays 5-yard line. But after Matt Forte gained four yards on first-and-goal, the Bears were stalled and had to settle for an Olindo Mare 34-yard field goal.

On the goal line, the offensive line has got to get movement. I looked for a hole and try to hit it, said Forte, who was stopped on second and third downs for no gain. There are going to be unblocked players. My deal is I have to slam it up in there. Thats what I was doing. You have to give them credit, too. They played tough defense on the goal line.

Right tackle Jonathan Scott said, somewhere, it wasnt 11 people working in unison. Im not saying thats what the reason was. But usually when we all work in unison, good things happen.

And while the Bears have been banged up and rotating different players at different spots on the offensive line, Scott said thats not an issue.

We work well together, we talk, we communicate, Scott said. They have faith in all seven linemen, and all seven linemen have to be accountable.

But the Bears got the chance to make amends. Flash forward to that bizarre Packers special-teams call in the fourth quarter. Not only did the Bears fail to get a touchdown starting at Green Bays 16, they didnt even gain a yard.

Thats another opportunity weve got to take advantage of, said quarterback Jay Cutler, who was surprised at the Packers pass. To get a ball like that, when the score is 21-10, those things dont happen often. To get a turnover was a great job by special teams. For us not to take advantage of that kind of opportunity is another reason you lose football games.

Not that the Bears were alone. Twice, the Packers couldve extended their lead on Sunday. Beleaguered kicker Mason Crosbys frustrating season continued, however, as he missed 43- and 42-yard field goals. Hes now 17-of-29 for the season. Didnt matter: Aaron Rodgers three touchdown passes to James Jones were eventually enough.

The Bears offense has had its struggles all season. But not getting the optimum number of points on those two drives, in this big of a game, against their division rival, was incredibly costly.

It hurts, coach Lovie Smith said. It was a one-score game at the end. We had excellent field position. Youve got to capitalize and thats the case most of the time. You cant rely on field goals in those situations. We need to get touchdowns.

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.