Scouting report: Gophers at Illinois
2:30 p.m. Saturday, Memorial Stadium (BTN, 100.3-FM)
A look at the Fighting Illini
Illinois’ season might have reached its low point Saturday, when the Illini were blown out 63-33 at Maryland. The Terrapins amassed 712 yards of offense and sent Illinois (3-5, 1-4 Big Ten) to its fifth loss in the past six games. The Illini rank last in the Big Ten in scoring defense, total defense and rushing defense, and on Monday defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson resigned, citing health reasons. “It’s a tough day, tough time for our program,’’ said coach Lovie Smith, who’ll take over the defensive play calls. “We’re not satisfied with a lot of things that we’re doing football-wise right now, of course defensively we haven’t played great.’’
Who to watch: Reggie Corbin, RB
If the Illini have a bright spot, it’s Corbin, a junior who leads the Big Ten and ranks second nationally with 8.03 yards per carry. Corbin has rushed 92 times for 739 yards and seven touchdowns and is coming off a career-high 155 yards on 18 carries against Maryland. He’s also a pass-catching threat out of the backfield with 10 receptions for 117 yards. Corbin has had to take on more of the rushing burden because of a foot injury to sophomore Mike Epstein.
From the coach: Lovie Smith
Smith, who guided the Chicago Bears to three playoff berths and one Super Bowl appearance, hasn’t found nearly that level of success in downstate Illinois. In his third season with the Illini, Smith has an 8-24 record, including a 3-20 mark in the Big Ten. They’ve lost their past three games by a combined 158-60. “The last three games in particular, we haven’t taken any major steps, it’s as simple as that,’’ Smith said. “It hasn’t been going the way we wanted it to, but there’s more time, and we plan on doing something with that time.’’