Beckman: 'We've got to get better'
CHAMPAIGN — There wasn't any yelling at the coach as he went to the locker room.
In fact, Tim Beckman felt so comfortable with his new fans that he went into the stands to ask for a play call. Twice.
On a rainy, windy day at Memorial Stadium (nothing new there), the first-year Illinois coach seemed to enjoy himself. After the Blue squeaked out a 13-12 victory, he handed a reinstated trophy to the winners and ran over to the BTN reporter in the corner of the end zone.
"We tried to make it as much a game atmosphere as we possibly could," Beckman said.
"It definitely paid off for us. It was a little bit sloppy in my opinion, but I did see us make improvements in the offense and in the defense as we continued to work through the scrimmage."
Beckman learned some about his offense (Josh Ferguson can run), his defense (Michael Buchanan can sack) and his newcomers (Ta'Jarvis Fuller needs to be on the field). He also realizes that between now and Sept. 1, his team needs to improve at plenty of spots.
In his first Illinois spring game, Beckman kept it simple. No punt or kick returns. A limit on the trick plays. A vanilla offense.
He knows what his team plans to do in September. He just doesn't want the coaches at Western Michigan, Arizona State and Louisiana Tech to know.
"We're going to put our players in the best position so we can be successful," Beckman said.
Beckman got a big day from Ferguson. The redshirt freshman tailback gained 150 yards for the winning Blue team. He also caught six passes for 30 yards.
"Boy, he really stepped up, didn't he?" Beckman said.
The top two quarterbacks, Nathan Scheelhaase and Reilly O'Toole, combined to hit 30 of 57 passes for 224 yards and a touchdown.
"A little bit on and off," Beckman said. "I saw Reilly do some good things. I saw Nate do some good things.
"It's a learning point. It's the first opportunity to play in front of some fans. We've got to get better. Not just at quarterback."
Beckman wasn't reluctant to talk about the flaws in his team. He pointed to the kicking game, which he said needs to improve before the season. The only scholarship specialist is punter Justin DuVernois, who will be joined in the fall by signee Ryan Frain.
And he pointed to the work needed on the offensive line.
"I think there was a lot of stress on them today because there are different faces playing," Beckman said. "There's a mixture, but that's football. And that's how you get better.
"I think Coach (Luke) Butkus has done a great job in 15 days. Yes, we've got a long way to go, but we're making strides to get better."