Five Takeaways: Illinois

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Takeaways from this past Saturday inlcude Keith Price, Bishop Sankey, John Timu, winning road games and more optimism about the secondary.

1) The pass defense seems to have not missed a beat from a very good unit last season, and may end up being even better when all is said and done. It's still early, and there are definitely some heavier hitters through the air coming up on the schedule, but they've already shut down a Boise State attack that is traditionally pretty potent as well as an Illinois attack that I think we're going to see is an above average unit in the Big Ten. There were some lapses, and they got lucky with some drops, but they also made plays when they needed to and made Nathan Scheelhaase throw into some tight windows.

2) Keith Price has been ruthlessly efficient in two game thus far, and he's been really quiet about it. He's making his plays, getting the ball out to his receivers, then you look up and he's knocking on the door of 300 yards. I'm almost comfortable in saying that at this point, we're looking at not just the return of 2011 Keith Price, but the best Keith Price we've seen yet. It's not just him though, he's being asked to do less with his reads and make decisions more quickly, and you have to hand it to Sark, Tui, and Keisau because the new strategy with the passing game fits the personnel perfectly. It will be interesting to see how it holds up against the tougher defenses on the schedule.

3) The team could have played better. They made too many mistakes, gave up too many big plays, didn't capitalize when they should have, and relied too much on luck. However, they did go on the road and win by two scores. Taking into account all the negatives and blending them in with the positive (winning) is encouraging for a couple of reasons: the first is that it's not something that they would done a year ago, or two years ago, or at any point in the recent history of the program, and the second is that winning on the road when you don't play your best is something that good teams do. This team seems to be taking the necessary steps to prove that they are in fact a good team.

4) John Timu's injury hurts. You never want to lose a starter to injury (obviously), and it hurts even more when it's a captain. However, if there's one position on the roster where the team can absorb an injury and not miss much of a beat, it's at linebacker. They've already got more starters than starting slots with Timu, Shaq Thompson, Travis Feeney and Princeton Fuimaono. The depth chart behind those guys is also really solid. The hope is that Timu bounces right back, or gets healed up with the light week against Idaho State, and is back for Pac-12 play. But if he isn't the defense will be able to overcome his loss until he gets back on the field.

5) Bishop Sankey is a grown ass man. Right now any discussion about the top running backs in the Pac-12 starts with him. And right now any discussion about the top running backs in the country is wrong if it doesn't include him. He's got a huge season ahead of him. Sit back and enjoy the show.

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