Tate: UI defense better be quick study

Tate: UI defense better be quick study

Denard Robinson ran for 235 yards in Michigan’s 44-13 romp Saturday at Purdue. At the
midway point of his senior
season, the fleet quarterback has rushed for 3,905 yards and 39 touchdowns while passing
for 5,873 yards and 47 touchdowns.
Everything else about Illinois’ invasion of Michigan’s Big House pales in comparison to the job of limiting the Wolverine superstar ... maybe like 30 yards rushing and 92 passing, his numbers last year at Memorial Stadium ... even though Michigan won 31-14.
“He’s a challenge,” Illini linebacker Jonathan Brown said Monday. “He goes from zero to 60 in a hurry. When he’s in front of you, you
have to make the tackle, and that’s the hard part.”
UI end Michael Buchanan expressed similar concerns: “He’s so explosive. We have to keep our eyes in the right place and close down the rushing lanes. Discipline is the key, for both the line and the guys (safeties) on the back end.
“You can’t emulate him in practice. We don’t have anyone of that caliber from an athletic standpoint. But we’re up for the challenge. We came out fired up at Wisconsin, but we didn’t finish. We played three strong quarters (trailing 10-7), and I think that helped our confidence. We just didn’t finish.”
Why not? What happened after Terry Hawthorne suffered an apparent concussion and was removed in an ambulance?
Said Brown: “For three quarters, everybody executed on defense, and we showed how dominant we can be. Then it was one mistake after another. Our doors got blown off.”
Wisconsin scored three TDs in the last 14 minutes, two on bursts by Montee Ball and the other on a 59-yard reception by Jared Abbrederis to win 31-14.
“Abbrederis got open on a play-action fake,” UI safety Steve Hull said. “We expected a lot of Montee Ball when they got ahead, and Abbrederis got behind us. We played three quarters of precision defense, and they took advantage of our late mistakes. We can build on those three quarters.”  

Familiar pattern
You ask why Illini fans are expecting the worst. It should be obvious. Here we are,
knee-deep in another football nosedive that is all too familiar. If the Illini lose Saturday at Michigan — they’re 21-point underdogs — it will mark the 11th time in 17 seasons that they lost at least three in a row in Big Ten play. In other words, it is more common than otherwise.  
Fact is, the Illini lost all eight in 1997, 2003 and 2005, and they lost six straight in 1996, 2004, 2006 and last season.

At some point, it is asking too much for fans to remain positive. Cub fans keep smiling through repeated failures, but Illini fans tend to lose hope.
For kicks, I scanned USA Today’s coaches poll, which has no Big Ten teams in the Top 25, to see if I could pinpoint 10 schools with no clear advantages over Illinois. OK, maybe some have easier transfer rules for junior college transfers. But what I’m considering are overall resources, tradition and drawing power.
This won’t be perfect. But I don’t see where Kansas State has any advantage whatsoever. Or Iowa State. Or Louisiana Tech. Or Boise State, Cincinnati, Rutgers, Mississippi State, Louisville, Oregon State and West Virginia. That’s 10.
So, yes, it can be done. We see major achievements elsewhere every day. It may be understandable that programs like Cincinnati and Louisville have lengthy basketball runs — it takes fewer players — but they shouldn’t be repeatedly better than the state university of Illinois in football.
What we’ve seen in 21-plus seasons, dating to and including the last year of John Mackovic’s regime, amounts to a 103-148 record. And any reasonable person who analyzes UI personnel for next season (and analyzing the schedule) would conclude that it’s likely to get worse before it gets better.

Illini football tidbits
— Friday’s team-only meeting in Madison, Wis., seemed to have a positive effect, Buchanan saying: “We didn’t call anyone out. We just talked about all the hard work we put in during the offseason and to not beat ourselves with mistakes. We got some things off our chest, and
I think we responded. But we didn’t finish.”
— UI coach Tim Beckman, somewhat embarrassed by his tobacco faux pas, discussed the pregame incident with athletic director Mike Thomas and promised there’ll be no more chewing incidents. He said: “It’s a terrible habit, and it won’t happen again.”
— Graham Pocic started at tackle but spent most of Saturday’s game at his old position, center. Darius Millines returned to catch five passes.
— Hawthorne is back with the squad this week, but he’ll have to pass concussion tests to determine whether he can play at Michigan. The secondary is in week-to-week upheaval, much like the offensive line. Veteran safety Supo Sanni participated for the first time against Penn State but did not play at Wisconsin. Hull missed Penn State and returned to make an interception that set up the UI’s first TD at Wisconsin.
— Lack of consistent pass protection for Nathan Scheelhaase has Beckman considering a game plan to keep more blockers in and fewer receivers out. Said Beckman: “Michigan isn’t flashy but has an aggressive defense, and we need to give Nathan more time. We want our quarterbacks to be comfortable throwing the ball, and there’s too much pressure and too many sacks.”
Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at ltate@news-gazette.com.


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geriatricillini wrote on October 09, 2012 at 6:10 am

The player quote of the day.."But we didn't finish." The coach's quote of the day.."Michigan is isn't flashy, but has an aggressive defense..." We haven't "finished" all year, minus our two walk through games. And I strongly disagree that Michigan isn't "flashy." It seems to me that Mr. Robinson runs circles around most folks in games and especially in the Big House in an extremely "flashy" way. I can agree they have an aggressive defense however. Being a 21 point dog in this fight seems about right. I notice the Las Vegas spreads in our games seem to be getting larger...maybe they "know" something about us now, huh?

I have never called for Beckman's head..so far... I am not a hater. Considering that we are now paying for SIX head coaches in men's and women's bball and football, I don't believe the university athletic department wants to pay for SEVEN of them do you? Thus, Beckman and Groce should be here until the end of their contracts, so we better get used to things with them. Beckman is already under fire. We will have to wait and see with Groce...hopefully he will have a better start, but things look tough in conference bball this season.

I feel that Beckman should be on a little shorter leash than Zook was, simply for the fact that the cupboard ain't quite as bare now as it was when Zook came here, but that is not my decision to make. This year might be in the tank and it's a first time around for this staff, so I will wait. It's not an easy thing to do though. And if we continue to be romped on every week for the next couple of seasons, we might have to pull the plug. This is totally on Tim and I hope he can work his way outta this situation, not only for the Illini Nation, but for himself as well. Since this is political season, too, I remain "uncommitted" on whether Tim Beckman is the answer for the football program at my Alma Mater or not. Time will tell. I have no comment on "Chewgate."

aaeismacgychel wrote on October 09, 2012 at 12:10 pm

I realize that I've been one of the more vocal people when it comes to wanting to get rid of Beckman (or some of his staff for now if he wants to buy a couple weeks of patience), and I also know that us Illini fans have been spewing all sorts of vitriol in the frenzied "FIRE _______" campaigns over the past few years so what I'm saying could be attributed to that and ignored, but here is my issue with what you wrote and why I believe this is an entirely different scenario than what Illini Nation has faced with both Weber and Zook:

I do not think Beckman should be fired because I'm a "hater" or because "I just haven't given him a chance". No, I do not hate Tim Beckman and yes, while he's only been here a few months, I gave him a fair chance. Since he has arrived on campus, this has been his track record:

1. In initial press conference show limited understanding of Illinois and Northwestern's relationship and friendly rivalry, turning Chicago into a battleground where there wasn't one before. Inspires some hope though.

2. Gets Bailey to commit. Good news!

3. Publicly embarasses Illinois for sketchy recruiting activities on Penn State's campus earning rebuke both nationally and throughout the B10

4. Beats Western Michigan. Hurray!

5. Puts on an absolutely embarassing coaching display at ASU where coaches can't get plays in on time (or even 11 players on the field for every snap). Then gives up on his team early in the 4th quarter by punting on a 4th and inches when down 3 scores.

6. Gets absolutely embarassed at home by Louisiana Tech. What was rated preseason nationally as a Top 10 defense has taken a nosedive

7. Well regarded DB Fuller leaves team.

8. Inspired Penn State team clownstomps Illinois. Illinois and Beckman get mocked throughout the game and at halftime by announcers and commentators in front of a national audience on ABC/ESPN.

9. Beckman commits secondary violation in plain sight an captured on camera in front of a national audience.

10. After staying competitive for three quarters, Illinois gives up in 4th and picks up their 4th straight blowout loss.

Rank comparison from last season:
2012: Offense 339ypg (102/120)
2011: Offense 356ypg (85/120)
2012: Offense 21.2ppg (104/120)
2011: Offense 22.6ppg (91/120)
2012: Defense 351ypg (39/120)
2011: Defense 292ypg (7/120)
2012: Defense 28.3ppg (80/120)
2011: Defense 20.1ppg (22/120)
2012: Kick Return 15.9ypa (118/120)
2011: Kick Return 15.7ypa (120/120)
2012: Punt Return 2.1ypa (117/120)
2011: Punt Return 2.9ypa (118/120)
2012: Margin of victory -7.1ppg
2011: Margin of victory +2.5ppg

We are worse in every single facet of the game already, and we haven't even played the bulk of our B10 schedule where those numbers will get a heck of a lot worse. We are a national laughingstock. We have committed a Secondary Violation on national tv. We are worse on every single level. The only reason Beckman should be allowed to stay is financial reasons and even that is questionable because absolutely destroying your product and dragging it through the dirt for 4 years will likely cost you even more than a firing. Both Zook and Weber never ever shed such a bad light on this program or turned it into a laughingstock. Look at Groce by comparison to Beckman. He's lightyears ahead and he hasn't even played a game.

I personally wanted Zook fired and I personally wanted Thomas to give Weber the support his team clearly needed and give Weber 1 more year. My wanting Beckman to be fired has nothing to do with wishing we retained Zook as coach, it has to do with what he has done with the image of our program. Get him the frak out before he commits an even more serious violation or drags us through the mud more and Kelvin Sampson's or Bruce Pearl's us.

RonZookIsMyCoach wrote on October 09, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Couldn't have said it better myself. Well done good sir...

IlliniOllie wrote on October 10, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Pretty well said - you had me right until the "give Weber 1 more year". Weber was awful and clearly needed to go after last season.

kzimmer001 wrote on October 09, 2012 at 9:10 am

Very possibly the worst coached team I have ever seen, top to bottom.  At least you knew Vic would have the dfefense prepared last year.

I could be a diehard Illini football fan, a season ticket holder, heck I might even travel to games, if only there was hope that the program was going in the right direction.  If only.

Basketball cannot start soon enough.

walker wrote on October 09, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Hey ...cgychel    Your comments are longer than Tate's whole article.  In spite of your points, Beckmann is here to stay.  He and M.T. are both in over their heads, just like Obama. (oops I just got mooncakes stirred up)




aaeismacgychel wrote on October 09, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Hahaha, I'll do my best to be a bit terser next time. But yes, I agree, based on the situation Beckman and Thomas are both here to stay. Thomas is a whole different story altogether, but similar to Beckman, I have not been impressed at all by his professionalism or actions during his short term in office. His little cloak and dagger games to force people out while pretending to stay neutral and impartial don't fool me one bit and I don't think they fool many other Illini fans or coaches around the country either. He'd have been better off in my book just being forthright about Weber, Howard, and Koenning instead of passive-agressively forcing them out through lack of support for them. So I guess, unlike Beckman's complete and utter disregard for any and all tact whatsoever, Thomas does have some, albeit quite transparent at best.

I'm pretty furious about this situation to be honest. And I'm not the type of person who thought I would be able to do a better job than Guenther, Zook, or Weber if I replaced them (Although I am positive I could have been a great Zook gameday assistant who could tell him when and when not to go for 2 or go for it on 4th down), but in this case, I'm seriously close to saying if you pick a random fan out of the crowd he'd be doing just as good a job as Beckman at this point. It's really infuriating.

OKOMIS wrote on October 09, 2012 at 2:10 pm


Beckman and Obama may be in over their heads… and in both cases they inherited a pile of sh#t from a idiot clown predecessor that was around too long..

walker wrote on October 09, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Hopefully Beckman has things in better shape after 4 yrs than the other guy does.

Bear8287 wrote on October 09, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Yes, Brody Burns has even documented the underachieving nature of the U of I football program in his September 14th article College Football's Biggest Underachievers.

It appears that maybe Cubs fans are starting to wise up a bit, with about a 7 percent drop in attendance from last year, but apparently they still rank in the top ten in attendance for the league.The Cubs have averaged a bit over 36,000 attendees per game which is pretty good for MLB, but wouldn't be so good for a B1G football program...

oandb wrote on October 09, 2012 at 10:10 pm

As I stated in a previous post Illinois passed on the best coach. He received the news in an email. He is a leader for a top seven team. 

As for Tim good luck. He asked, seriously, the players for input on how to improve. The "look like studs play like butter" bunch showed up as usual. Hope they don't spend their NFL money.

Love the new recruits. Too bad zero would make the Catholic League 2nd team.