The ghosts of Illini past still exist, and this game vs Western Michigan University is a prime example. Our previous Athletic Director set up a 2 for 1 Home and Home + Neutral series against Western Michigan in the early 2000s. Here is a summary of the games:
- 2008 – “Neutral” Game held at Ford Field in Detroit
- WMU 23, ILL 17
- In 2007 the Illinois went to the Rose Bowl for the first time in decades. In traditional Illinois fashion they followed that up with an up and down year. Incredibly the Illini scheduled this game for the last week of the year and limped in at 5-6. Illinois lost and were denied back to back bowl games.
- 2011 – @Illinois
- ILL 23, WMU 20
- This game would move Illinois to 4-0 on the year. This is also the last year Ron Zook would coach the Illini. The Illini would win the next two games and then lose the following 6 to become the first FBS school to start 6-0 and end up 6-6.
- 2012 – @Illinois
- ILL 24, WMU 7
- The first season of the Tim Beckman Era (A New Era Beckons?) Illinois would finish 2-10 on the year while WMU would finish 4-8 and fire head Coach Bill Cubit. Bill Cubit would then come over to Illinois in the offseason to become the offense coordinator. WMU would hire young upstart P.J. Fleck to replace Cubit.
- 2016 – @Illinois (Scheduled to be at WMU)
- WMU 34, Illinois 10
- P.J. Fleck and his Western Michigan team is rolling while Lovie Smith is trying to get the Illini back on track after years of mediocrity under Beckman and Cubit. The Illini had no answer for their running game and could not muster enough offense to keep up in this game. Early terrible calls against the Illini got them started on the wrong foot and down 14-0 from which they would never recover. This game was due to be a Western Michigan home game. Mike Thomas paid out WMU to move the game to Champaign, but it did not matter. The game still felt like a home game for WMU. Between their band playing the entire game or their visiting fans being loud and clearly loving what they saw on the field, it was a rough game for the Illini.
These reasons are why I do not want to play WMU again for a long time. From the terrible end of season loss in 2008,to the Beckman years, to the Cubit connection, there are plenty of reasons why I do not want to have another series scheduled against them for a long time. There are plenty of other teams in the FBS that we can play. I hope they are of the cupcake variety (Maybe from the other side of the mitten? Look at you Eastern!)
The day itself was a pretty good day for Central Illinois. Beautiful party cloudy fall day spent hanging out, grilling, all in the shadow of historic Memorial Stadium. I am worried that this was the last straw for the season for the fickle fanbase that is Illinois. After filling the stadium vs North Carolina, it was noticeably more empty today. Illinois football is a lot like Lucy and Charlie Brown, the football is always taken away right before we are going to kick it. The fanbase wants to win so bad, but is tired of seeing such a bad product. I guess it was fitting that I took the above photo at the end of the game. The sun was setting on Memorial Stadium as WMU ran the final seconds off the clock. the sun was setting on the stadium, the game, and most Illini fan’s hope for this season. I believe in Lovie Smith, I believe in Josh Whitman, and I believe in Illinois. Nothing will be instant, but I hope that we can make some progress on the field. We are still haunted by the ghosts of Illinois past (Beckman Recruits, OoC Schedules). I want to believe that we are building a new foundation and that the hastag #WeWillWin is more than a cheesy gimmick. I thought about during the 3-in-1 what would I say if someone asked why I am still a faithful Illini fan. I suppose my answer would be that all these terrible games will make seeing I-L-L-I-N-I spelled out by the Marching Illini in the Rose Bowl that much sweeter. Until next time. I-L-L