Illinois' offense gets an A against Syracuse

John Supinie

Offense A

The Big Ten Conference's top rushing team from a year ago, Illinois rushed for 378 yards. Running back Rashard Mendenhall and quarterback Juice Williams combined for 240 yards and four touchdowns. Freshman Marcus Pollard gained 92 yards in his second game.

Defense A

The only real mistake from the Illini came on a missed tackle that turned a short gain into a 62-yard pass play to set up Syracuse's first touchdown. But Syracuse had just 122 yards and six first downs while falling behind 17-0 at halftime. The Orange finished with just 63 yards rushing.

Special teams D

Placekicker Jason Reda kept it from a failing grade. A botched onside kick attempt to start the second half handed Syracuse three points. Misplaying a kickoff led to another Syracuse touchdown late in the fourth quarter. In a real game, that might be too much to overcome.

Overall B

It's easy to get excited and look forward to Big Ten Conference play that begins next week. OK, so Syracuse is probably one of the worst BCS teams in the nation -- how long until coach Greg Robinson gets canned? --  but the Illini reminded everyone a talented running game takes pressure off quarterback Juice Williams' right arm. Heading into league play, Big Ten opponents must first stop the Illini running game.