Illini offense shows improvement in loss

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Illini offense shows improvement in loss

CHAMPAIGN Its easy to play the what if game after aloss like Illinois 31-17 defeat at the hands of Indiana on Saturday.

What if Illinois had not committed two personal fouls?

What if the Illini had recovered those two turnovers,instead of the Hoosiers?

Things like that make you look snake bit, Illinoisoffensive coordinator Chris Beatty said. You cant have turnovers andpenalties keep drives going. Those things are the difference between good teamsand teams trying to get to that level.

Certainly, the game would have been much different if thingshad broken Illinois way more frequently. But the news from Memorial Stadium onSaturday was not all bad.

After one half of play Illinois had 14 first downs doubletheir output in the entire Michigan game. Illinois finished the game with 196yards rushing a new season-high. Sophomore running back Donovonn Young had125 yards on 21 rushes besting his previous career best by 25 yards. DariusMillines had five catches for 80 yards a season best by 26 yards.

Of course, these accomplishments were hard to focus on inthe face of a homecoming loss (and Indianas first road Big Ten win in fouryears). But, mired in a disheartening stretch of five consecutive losses, thepositive offensive output is proof these Illini have the ability to compete inthe Big Ten conference.

We have a lot of young guys on the team and those guys aregetting better every week, Beatty said. At some point those freshmen arejuniors and will be older, as opposed to always being the young team. Thoseguys are getting better and we have to keep developing them.

Prior to the Indiana game, the Illinois coaching staff sawweaknesses in the Hoosiers run defense they felt they could exploit. TheIllini went hard after their opponent early in the game and found success:after the first quarter Illinois had already racked up 74 yards on the ground.

Young made a statement after Illinois loss to Wisconsinthat he wanted to see the running backs getting more touches. On Saturday hegot his wish and made the most of it. He felt good about the teams runningplay as a whole after the game, and believes it can lead to better things downthe road.

We got the ball in the right peoples hands and we movedthe ball. The offensive production looked a lot better than in past weeks, thesophomore running back said. I feel like this is a great stepping stone forus. We see that we can move the ball, so definitely we will come back and workhard.

Illinois early rushing success allowed the team to lookdownfield, as well, with the primary beneficiary being Millines. The juniorcredited his running backs for allowing him to get space to make catches.

The run game was great, and I was doing my best to findareas where I could see Nate Scheelhaase, quarterback and I knew he could seeme, Millines said.

Scheelhaase ended up throwing for 176 yards and onetouchdown, complementing the teams impressive run game. Illinois outgainedIndiana in both rushing and passing.

Still, being unable to match Indiana on the scoreboard stungthe Illini deeply especially on homecoming.

This is very frustrating, Millines said. But werestaying together. Wins are going to come if we just keep fighting. We need tostay together and keep fighting.

If Illinois can continue to produce offensive like they didagainst Indiana, it stand to reason wins will come for the team. But, successis not an overnight phenomenon according to head coach Tim Beckman.

You want success to happen fast, just like everybodyelse. You want to be successful as fast as you possibly can, but right now,were not, Beckman said. Weve got to evaluate things againand create thingsthat can help our players be successful and this program be successful.

Fast Break Morning Update: Scott Darling leads Blackhawks to win over Blues

Fast Break Morning Update: Scott Darling leads Blackhawks to win over Blues

Here are the top Chicago sports stories from Sunday:

Scott Darling shines in fill-in duty as Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

What if… Cubs GM Jed Hoyer’s takeaways from epic World Series Game 7

Quick hits: Blackhawks start strong in win over Blues

Illini keep NCAA tournament hopes afloat with dominant win over Nebraska

White Sox: Happy with progress, Brett Lawrie tries to clear final hurdles

How Indians regrouped and reloaded after losing unforgettable Game 7 to Cubs

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

Michigan State gets big win to boost tourney hopes, while Wisconsin loses for fourth time in five games

 

 

 

Scott Darling shines in fill-in duty as Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

Scott Darling shines in fill-in duty as Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

Scott Darling found out at 8 a.m. Sunday that he was starting for an ailing Corey Crawford. Considering he did this back in December for a few weeks, adjusting quick for one game was fine.

"It's kind of my job," Darling said.

And Darling, once again, did his job.

Darling stopped 30 of 32 shots and Patrick Kane scored his 24th goal of the season as the Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues 4-2 on Sunday night. The Blackhawks have won nine of their last 10 games. They're one point behind the Minnesota Wild, who made their splashy trade-deadline move in acquiring Martin Hanzal on Sunday. But the Blackhawks, thanks to veterans regaining their form, a top line finding its rhythm and youth consistently improving, are just rolling right along.

"We had a great start to the game. I thought Darls was excellent all night, great stretch there in the last 10 minutes where we fight through some tough shifts, particularly in the last couple of minutes in our end. But good win," coach Joel Quenneville said. "You look at the nice plays on the goals, it was kind of a comparable ending to the outdoor game: tied and about the same time they scored, we scored (tonight). Big two points for us."

Jonathan Toews scored his 16th of the season and Artem Anisimov scored the game-winning goal with 5:20 remaining in regulation. Tanner Kero added an empty-net goal with 2.6 seconds remaining in the game.

The Blackhawks already knew they'd be without Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body) for at least a day or two when they found out Crawford couldn't go this morning. As Quenneville said Darling was strong once again, denying the Blues all but twice (a 2-on-1 goal from Magnus Paajarvi and a power-play goal from Alex Pietrangelo).

Toews and Kane (power-play goal) staked the Blackhawks to a 2-0 lead early before the Blues tied it in the second. But late in the third period Anisimov took the feed from Artemi Panarin to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead.

"I saw the puck all the way. It was easy to pick up," Anisimov said. "When you don't see the puck at the last moment and it comes, it's hard to receive and prepare for the next move. But I saw it all the way. Easy to prepare for the next move."

Speaking of next moves, do the Blackhawks make any more before the trade deadline. General manager Stan Bowman said on Friday, following the acquisition of Tomas Jurco, that he'll keep talking and listening but likes the group he has right now. If Bowman's made moves it's for what the Blackhawks have needed, not because of another team's trades. The Blackhawks like what they have right now. Winning nine of 10 and continuing to trend in the right direction, they should be careful not to disrupt what they've got going.

"I think we're, as we've said lately, trending the right way. We're playing solid. I think all four lines are contributing in every which way," Toews said. "I love our group right now. Everyone is getting better individually, contributing more and more and it's a lot of fun to see the way we're playing right now. We know that the ceiling is way higher and we can keep getting better too."