Illinois Football: 3 Takeaways from close home win against Toledo

Bret Bielema, Illinois football coach (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Bret Bielema, Illinois football coach (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /
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Illinois Football
September 2, 2023; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini linebacker Dylan Rosiek (28) tackles Toledo Rockets quarterback Dequan Finn (7) during the second half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

Illinois football needs to improve in the trenches

If you are head coach Bret Bielema, defensive co-coordinators Aaron Henry, and Terrance Jamison, there are several things you need to fix going into the Kansas week. First, the defensive line got pushed around at times last night. If you remove the sacks, the Rockets ran for nearly five yards per rush attempt.

When Toledo ran stretch plays or wide zone running plays, the linebackers got lost and didn’t make plays until running backs were four or five yards past the line of scrimmage. The issue there goes back to the defensive line. The Illini were not in the backfield enough.

Toledo did an excellent job of bottling Illinois’s running game. The offensive line was also supposed to be one of the best in the Big Ten, but the Rockets did a tremendous job of moving the Illini’s offensive line. Illinois rarely pushed around Toledo’s defensive line.

The Rocket’s lack of depth did begin to show itself late in the fourth quarter. However, head coach Jason Candle has to like how his defense did not back down against a Power Five opponent.