Bears

Illini offense goes missing against Minnesota

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Illini offense goes missing against Minnesota

CHAMPAIGN It has been 398 days since Illinois last won a Big Ten game. It will be at least seven more before the Illini have another chance to end that streak.

Lack of offense and costly penalties led to a 17-3 defeat in a very winnable game against Minnesota. The loss was the seventh straight for the Illini (2-8, 0-6) and head coach Tim Beckman did not try to couch his disappoint after the game.

Early in the game we had a couple opportunities to take big strikes, to take big hits, and we overthrew wide open receiversso we dont get points out of that. Things like that you have to make if youre going to be successful and our players arent making those plays right now, he said. We were on offense very, very inconsistent, and to be honest, the worst Ive been around.

The Illinois offense came out with a roar. On the first play from scrimmage running back Donovonn Young broke off a 16-yard run. On the ensuing play Young took the hand-off from Nathan Scheelhaase and flicked it back to him, allowing the quarterback to find Spencer Harris streaking over the middle for a 49-yard reception.

Illinois continued moving the ball, but got held up at the one-yard line and had to settle for a 20-yard field goal from Nick Immekus.

Going down the field to stalemate at the one is tough, I dont know what it is I cant point fingers, Young, a sophomore, said.

Weve got to get off the football, bloody some mouths, and get us a yard when we need a yard, Beckman said, venting frustration about settling for a field goal. We cant put the ball on the one-yard line for three downs and not get the ball in the end zone. This is college football.

Stalling out at the one would be a turning point, and the Illini would not crack the red zone again in the game. A couple of holding penalties at inopportune moments later in the half killed drives before they could gain momentum.

On defense, Illinois held firm whenever Minnesota got across midfield. The Illini limited the visitors to just 18 passing yards in the first half and held them scoreless until late in the second quarter.

Without many passing options, the Gophers looked to the run. Midway through the second quarter Minnesota got the ball at their own 32 and Donnell Kirkwood wasted no time getting his team into Illinois' territory with a 38-yard run.

The Illinois defense held up once again, this time holding off the Minnesota offense on the three-yard line, forcing a 20-yard field goal from Jordan Wettstein with 3:30 left in the half. The teams would go to the locker room at halftime tied 3-3.

After a quiet start to the second half, Minnesota marched into Illinois territory late in the third with their first completion since the opening quarter. After a few good plays from the Illini defense, the Gophers looked stymied. A hands to the face penalty on Akeem Spence gave Minnesota a fresh start, setting the visitors up with a first down from the Illinois five yard line.

Two plays after the penalty Kirkwood hit pay dirt as he rumbled into the endzone for the games first touchdown. His three-yard run gave Minnesota a 10-3 lead with 2:30 left in the third quarter.

Illinois tried to mount a response, but could not get much going with the ball in hand. The Illini had a total of just five yards of net offense in the third quarter and would not cross over midfield in the half until there was seven minutes left in the game.

Its frustrating, said offensive coordinator Chris Beatty after the game. I have to do a better job to help them, thats the bottom line.

The defense gave Illinois a couple of chances late in the game, coming up with a couple stops in their own territory to hold off the Gophers. The Illini offense, however, could not create any points.

On the first chance, starting at 7:53 in the fourth, Scheelhaase moved Illinois down to the Gophers 35 yard line with 28 yards rushing by himself. After Minnesotas defense forced a fourth down, his pass sailed through Darius Millines hands.

After the second defensive stop Illinois took over with 2:31 left on the clock. The team quickly got to third-and-one on their own 29-yard line, but Scheelhaase dangled the ball on the quarterback keeper and the Gophers punched it loose. Derrick Wells recovered the fumble for Minnesota and took the ball down to the Illinois 19.

The fumble led to a 12-yard rushing touchdown by Kirkwood just 47 seconds later. The touchdown was the nail in the coffin, putting the game out of reach for Illinois.

Beckman was left grasping for answers after the loss.

Scoring three points is not going to cut it in any league, he said. I havent been around this losing. Its been tough, but weve got to find ways to motivate them.

The players also struggled with the errors of the game and the struggles of this season as a whole.

Its tough expecting so much and gaining so little from this season, Young said.

The focus going forward, according to senior defensive back Michael Buchanan, is to make the young players like true freshman Mason Monheim, who led all players with 15 tackles get better.

I only have two games left in my career, but Im always going to be an Illini at heart, so we want to set a path for the younger guys, Buchanan said. I do feel like were playing better as a team the last couple weeks as a teamwe just want to set the path for next year so the younger guys dont have to go through this.

Postcards from Camp: Defense predictably ahead of offense but “D” already being challenged by changing “O"

Postcards from Camp: Defense predictably ahead of offense but “D” already being challenged by changing “O"

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – An open postcard from the Bears “D”:
 
Yes, we know we need more interceptions. And we’re doing something about it, even if Mitch doesn’t like it – quarterbacks never do. Tru’ probably wasn’t in a great mood after Nick Kwiatkoski picked his way through traffic, then deflected and grabbed a pass of Mitch’s for one pick, this after Kyle (Fuller) had snagged one of 10’s in 7-on-7. So after Cre’Von LeBlanc broke in front of Adam Shaheen to intercept one of Chase Daniel’s throws, Mitch and Prince (Amukamara) did a little jawing. But hey….
 
Kwit is having a great camp, running the offense with Danny Trevathan nursing a hamstring problem and Roquan Smith still not signed. Coach Nagy has told us, and said it again on Sunday, that you have to win your job, no gimmes here, and Kwit isn’t giving anything away.
 
We all were kind of causing problems for the offense. Prince broke up a Mitch throw to Kevin White and then defensed another two snaps later against Josh Bellamy. Kyle broke up a long try to White, too, and even in 7-on7, the QB’s were having to hold onto the ball longer because of good coverage.
 
(Kevin had a spotty day. He burned us with a long TD catch against double coverage but also dropped another Mitch Trubisky deep heave with no one closer than five yards away, and had the football come out when he hit the ground after another catch.)
 
We even created a “problem” for coach Nagy, who’s an offensive guy, an ex-QB himself and a former O-coordinator, but now has to pretend be at least a little happy when we do something on defense. Like he said Sunday, ‘The biggest difference [as a head coach] is you can't veer too much, either way. You're right down the middle. So, if Mitch throws an interception, it's good for our defense. Right? It's not good for Mitch. So, how do you balance that?”
 
Really, we should be ahead of the offense. Two reasons: First, the offense is still learning its playbook and a lot of new guys; and second, as Eddie [Jackson] was saying, “I just know that we’ve got better chemistry from having players here last year. It’s like the biggest thing that you can see. But the offense is doing a great job. They come out there and give us good looks.”
 
The pads were on for Sunday’s practice, so there was more hitting. The offense’ll be catching up more and more, so we’ll just enjoy the edge while it lasts.
 
Sincerely,
 
The “D”
 
P.S.  High-fives to all you fans who came down to watch practice and stayed through all that rain. We’re getting paid to be out there but you’re there because you’re Bears fans. Thanks

 
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Let’s make if official
 
Play during practice Sunday was sloppy at times, understandable given the repeated downpours as well as the inevitable early-camp learning curves.
 
But the practice was run using NFL officials, making their annual camp visits to review and explain new rules, and the Bears committed too many penalties to leave coaches satisfied.
 
Rookie wide receiver Anthony Miller was flagged for offensive pass interference on an early 7-on-7 rep and a handful of other Bears brought out the yellow laundry from the officials. One defensive offsides, a couple of false starts and other interference penalties—all part of those things to be “cleaned up” before the flags start to count.
 
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A-Rob impact—and workload—growing
 
The No. 1 question of anyone who’s been watching training camp is “How’s Trubisky look?” Not far behind that, though, is “What about Robinson? His knee ok?”
 
If early camp performances, including Sunday’s in full pads, are any indicator, and a handful of practices aren’t ever definitive, then the answers on the hoped-for franchise wideout are clear positives. The top free-agent signing of the Bears this offseason has turned in repeated strong plays and has been targeted enough in the course of Trubisky’s progressions to be satisfied at his ability to get open and to earn his quarterback’s confidence.
 
Robinson turned in a difficult sliding catch on Sunday and was denied a deep catch later only by an outstanding pass breakup by safety Adrian Amos. Robinson is coming off season-ending knee surgery of a year ago and likely has a handful of rest days built into his plan, as the Bears are doing with guard Kyle Long. 
 
“We want to be able to monitor and make sure we don’t overdo anything,”said coach Matt Nagy. “There’s no need to do that. He’s worked really hard to get to this point so for us, just to keep an idea where he’s at, how many reps he’s getting, and coach [Mike] Furrey’s done a good job of that.”
 
 
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Fan favorite…sort of
 
This writer was departing O’Hare some weeks back and at an adjacent gate was Bears running back Tarik Cohen. Just time to exchange a few pleasantries and I was leaving. But the notable part of the moment was that no one – no…one —recognized Cohen. No. one.
 
Then came Saturday morning and the first day of fans attending a training-camp practice. The biggest ovation went to quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Not far short of that, however, was the welcome for Cohen, a hint that the second-year ultra-back (with apologies to Raymont Harris, the original Ultraback) won’t go unnoticed at too many more O’Hare gates.
 
“A couple people knew me in the airport,” Cohen said. “I was just keeping my head down, keeping it moving. Airports are congested places.”
 
An ovation coming out to practice “feels great,” Cohen said. “It’s like seeing your hard work pay off a little bit. But I’m looking for a bigger ovation coming out for the games.”
 
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Sick bay
 
Rookie linebacker linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe was added to a defense-heavy list of injured absentees, out with what coach Matt Nagy reported was a shoulder injury. He joins linebackers Aaron Lynch and Danny Trevathan and cornerback Sherrick McManis, all with hamstring strains.
 
Tight end Daniel Brown is still out with an ankle injury.
 

Report: Bulls sign former Arizona Wildcat Rawle Alkins to two-way contract

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USA TODAY

Report: Bulls sign former Arizona Wildcat Rawle Alkins to two-way contract

A report on Sunday from Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports indicated that the Bulls have agreed to a two-way contract with former Arizona Wildcat Rawle Alkins. 

The 6'5'' guard was a teammate of Lauri Markkanen on the 2017 Wildcats, and many expected him to be a potential lottery pick after showing off the all-around skill set that also made him the top player in the state of New York in high school.

After going undrafted, Alkins played for the Toronto Raptors Summer League team, where he put up 9 points, 4.67 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. In the six  Las Vegas Summer League games he played in, Alkins shot poor from the field (37 percent) and the free throw line (62.5 percent), but he knocked down his 3-pointers, shooting 43.9 percent on a healthy 3.5 attempts from deep per game. 

There is an obvious fit on the Bulls for a player like Alkins. He was a career 36.5 percent 3-point shooter in his two college seasons, and has the physical profile of a great wing defender at the NBA-level. Alkins has a 6'9'' wingspan, and at a listed 220 lbs., it is easy to see him having the potential to guard four-to-five different positions on the floor. At this stage of the rebuild, the Bulls could really use as many of the coveted "3-and-D" wings as they can get. And there are some, like, The Ringer's Chris Vernon, who think that Alkins has the potential to become a glue guy.

Alkins will be a fan favorite wherever he plays. You want a Marcus Smart, Tony Allen, or P.J. Tucker–type player when you need a big play in a big game. I see that with Alkins.

-The Ringer's Chris Vernon 

The nature of the two-way contract means that Bulls fans will to catch some Windy City Bulls games to see Alkins in action. But much like Antonio Blakeney last season, we could see Alkins make an instant impact in the G League and get a call-up sooner than later, especially if the Bulls decide to move on from veteran Justin Holiday.

Either way, the pick up is a shrewd move by the Bulls front office. Alkins is a well-rounded, defense-first player who will be joining a young roster overstocked with scoring talent, but thin on defenders capable of guarding on the perimeter or executing a switching defense at a high level.