When Wes Lunt crumpled into a dormant heap last Saturday, Illinois’ offense sprang (unanticipatedly?) to life. Everyone knew Chayce Crouch was good for only one thing: faking a hand-off then running the ball himself.
For a number of snaps, that’s exactly what Chayce Crouch did. Time and again, it worked. Purdue must have known it was coming, but they couldn’t stop it.
Call it a draw, or a naked bootleg or a misdirection or any other term for quarterback keeper. It got the Illini offense moving downfield.
Then something weird happened. Chayce Crouch attempted a pass. It failed, of course, because Chayce Crouch is good for one thing only.
Then something really weird happened. Chayce Crouch completed a pass. Wholly new territory, right? Confused Illini fans, beginning to question whether bears actually do shit in the woods, and feeling less certain about the pope’s religious affiliation, watched Chayce Crouch complete 10-of-14 passes for 142 yards.
Some of these passes traveled mostly through the air. They were not simple pitch plays followed by long runs.
Because he fumbled in overtime, and because Illinois ultimately lost the game, the beginning of The Chayce Crouch Era ended on a somber note.
By Monday lunchtime, Lovie Smith was already referring to Crouch as the back-up. Lunt was unable to practice, “obviously,” said the coach. But he’s still the starter.
Reading between the lines and the coachspeak, what does that mean? It means you should expect Chayce Crouch to enjoy a career day against the Big Ten’s worst team.
Maybe Lunt will play, if he and the team’s medical staff decide he’s up to it. Maybe Lovie will employ two QBs simply to throw Rutgers off balance. Why wouldn’t he? Lunt has been competent, if not exciting. You don’t worry that he’ll toss the ball casually into coverage. He showed, at Nebraska, that he’s learned to spot a gaping hole and run toward it.
But it’s hard to believe that we won’t see Chayce Crouch taking snaps for the third week in a row. Unless and until he proves that his fumble wasn’t a rarity, or his offensive numbers an anomaly, Illinois has no reason to keep him on the sidelines.