Daaaaaaaaaaa Illini. That sure doesn’t have the same ring to it, but with tonight’s game taking place at Soldier Field – it’s quite fitting. Add Ditka administering the pregame coin toss, and it’s practically a scene on SNL. This game really wasn’t supposed to be a threat for the incoming Huskies. But, a surprising 2-0 start had Illinois fans imagining the possibilities. A strong contingent from Seattle filled the south loop bars while Illinois fans combated with their ILL-INI chant.
The swarms of mixed purple and orange crossing under Lake Shore Drive gave this neutral site contest a bowl-game-like feel. Both bands sounded their war cries, and both fan bases turned up the volume. Washington took control in the second half, but Illinois made it interesting with a pair of late TDs. Fireworks blasted from behind the press box signaling each score for the orange and blue – a tradition carried up from Champaign. But, there just wasn’t enough ammo to carry the Illini to a defeat of the 19th ranked team in the land. However, there were some notable take aways from the day:
1. The Illini could very well avoid being the Big Ten’s doormat team this year. They have graduated to “thorn in the side.”
2. Washington is a serious PAC 12 title contender.
3. Neutral site games at Soldier Field are an outstanding way to involve the Big Ten’s gargantuan fan bases.
4. Ditka is an outstanding coin flipper…seriously, look at the form in the gallery picture!