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Friday, November 27, 2009
Illini trailing in shootout with Cincinnati

By Adam Rittenberg

The Illinois offense finally looks like we thought it would entering the season, but it still might not be nearly enough today.

Juice Williams and his weapons are moving the ball well against Cincinnati, racking up 267 yards and dominating possession time (21:04-8:56). Illinois got the start it wanted, as Williams led a 12-play, 87-yard scoring drive to take a 7-0 lead.

But Cincinnati countered in a hurry, using big plays on both offense and special teams to take a commanding lead. Give Illinois credit for hanging tough -- Williams had an excellent first half, completing 12 of 18 passes for 164 yards and two scores -- but the Illini trail 35-20 at halftime and have shown no ability to stop quarterback Tony Pike, tight end Ben Guidugli and wideouts Mardy Gilyard and Armon Binns. Special teams have been a problem for much of the season, and Gilyard's game-tying, 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown really changed the momentum.

Cincinnati's defense certainly is vulnerable, but Zook and his defensive assistants must find a way to slow down Pike. Illinois needs to generate some pressure or force a turnover or two. Time of possession rarely means much against Cincinnati, which is the king of the big play.