Tate: It feels like 2005 all over again

Tate: It feels like 2005 all over again

When you’re down and wallowing, that’s where the boots are. And everybody is kicking around Tim Beckman’s struggling Illini these days.
Here’s what ESPN’s astute Adam Rittenberg said this week:
“Beckman didn’t inherit a mess at Illinois, even if it looks that way after seven games. While underachieving since 2007, the Illini had won back-to-back bowl games for the first time in history.
“No one could have foreseen the disaster that has taken place in the first half of the season. Four of the five defeats have come by 28 points or more. Illinois has dropped its first three Big Ten contests by a combined score of 111-21.
“Most of the problems have been on offense, which lacks an identity and ranks no better than 96th nationally in any major category and is tied for 117th in the FBS in turnovers (18). The Illini have no players ranked in the Big Ten’s top 10 in rushing, passing or receiving. They allowed more than 30 points just twice in 2011. They already have done so five times this season.”
College ShameDay, which delights in rubbing it in to the likes of Kentucky and Auburn, pinpointed Illinois’ performance at Michigan:
“One way to describe Denard Robinson’s first throw is ‘a 71-yard completion for a TD.’ Another would be ‘nearly three times the passing yardage that the expired Velveeta brick, otherwise known as the Illinois offense, would put up in the whole game.’
“Seven completions for 29 yards is bad. Completing only one pass for positive yardage in the second half is biblically catastrophic. Quarterback Reilly O’Toole might as well have been throwing frogs out there.
“In 2010, the Illini ranked 48th in the country in plays of 30 yards or more. They dropped to 80th in 2011. Currently, they sit at 119th. Here is the good news: There are not 150 teams in FBS, so Illinois cannot continue to drop at that pace.”

Deja vu all over again
OK, enough with the snarkiness. The situation is bad, and everyone knows it. This reminds of Ron Zook’s first season in 2005, when the Illini lost consecutive Big Ten games by scores of 61-14, 35-7, 36-13, 63-10 (Penn State led 56-3 at halftime), 41-24, 40-2, 37-3 and 38-21. That’s an average margin of roughly 44-12, or 32 points ... which is about what the 37-7 average margin is in three outings this season.
Now, brace yourself and prepare for two bits of positive news.
— Two years later in 2007, Illinois beat No. 1 Ohio State, won nine games and qualified for a trip to the Rose Bowl.
— Four teams that Illinois hallucinators figured to beat prior to the 2012 season are still on the schedule: Indiana (2-4), Minnesota (4-2), Purdue (3-3) and Northwestern (6-1).
To be sure, much has changed since August, including our perception of this Illini team.
Meanwhile Indiana, having lost 41-39 to Ball State, has scored at a high rate in three Big Ten setbacks; Minnesota started 4-0, then lost to Iowa and Northwestern; Purdue appeared improved until the Boilermakers ran into Michigan and Wisconsin; and NU clutch play has the Wildcats already bowl eligible.

Tate’s tidbits
— Mike Thomas is meeting with Illini officials to establish the appropriate cost of naming rights on various aspects of the Assembly Hall renovation, not only the big one — the new name based on a major sponsor — but for such aspects as the Hall of Fame, front entrance, court, etc. It takes a lot of contributors to complete a $150 million operation, if that is the ultimate cost.
— Since you asked: With former Illini coaches Vic Koenning and Dan Disch serving as defensive co-coordinators, North Carolina reached 5-2 by holding Miami scoreless in the last 20 minutes of Saturday’s 18-14 squeaker. The Hurricanes penetrated to the 26- and 24-yard lines in the final period but were stopped.
— Reggie Theus, who made a run at the Illini basketball job but did not receive an interview, has hooked on as head coach of the Los Angeles quintet in the NBA Development League. Theus posted a 25-9 record as head coach at New Mexico State in 2007, earning him a brief stint as head coach of Sacramento in the NBA. He was a Pac-12 analyst for Fox Sports last season.

Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at ltate@news-gazette.com.

Categories (3):Illini Sports, Football, Sports


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peterborich wrote on October 19, 2012 at 8:10 am

Hey Loren:   How is Adam Rittenberg "astute" when he states utter garbage that “Beckman didn’t inherit a mess at Illinois?"   If anything thing is clear at this point in time is that Beckman inherited a program in sheer decline, and no one should be surprised, in retrospect, what has happened this season.  A 6-6 regular season ledger in 2011 with an eight home game schedule and only two noteworthy wins over mediocre Northwestern and Arizona State squads? A 2-6 record in the Big Ten last year, with six of those losses in a row to end of the year?   A woeful offense with an absence of an O-line and receivers?   A couple of year's worth of recruiting classes rated at the bottom of the Big Ten? 

Simply put, last year's team had no business being in a bowl game.  To their credit, they took advantage of the situation by barely beating a below .500 UCLA team.  But pointing to that win as righting the ship for the program's ills is laughable.

It makes my "As-tute" everytime someone writes how Beckman ruined a "good thing going" at Illinois.  He was brought in to re-build a program.  Let him do his job . . .  .

Matt wrote on October 19, 2012 at 9:10 am

The fact that this season has been a disaster is an "astute" observation to anyone who understands the game of football.

That being said we would still be 2-5 with almost any coach and Beckman desreves the right to prove he knows what he's doing. This should start by beating or at least being competitive in the upcoming games against IU, PU, Minn who have equal or less talent. If we lose by mulltiple touchdowns to those teams then we know have a serious coaching problem.

OKOMIS wrote on October 19, 2012 at 9:10 am

 You are correct!! We’d have the same record at this point regardless… maybe closer losses… maybe not.. how we finish from here will say a lot… 2 wins, should quiet everyone…

illiniart wrote on October 19, 2012 at 10:10 am

Lipstick on a pig.  Loren can point to the successes after the failures in the past, but we had hope because of the recruits that were coming back then.  I'm not sure where the signs are today that things will get better in the future.  

Pointing out that Vic is doing well only reminds us of what a dumb decision it was to get rid of him.  Beckman has made a career's worth of dumb decisions already.  Getting rid of Vic rivals the stupidity of taking an entourage to PSU as the dumbest. 

Moonpie wrote on October 19, 2012 at 11:10 am

Expired brick of Velveeta perfectly characterizes the Illini offense. Yet Obi Wan Tate swipes at the guy and calls him snarky. Well, Obi Wan would know snarky if anyone does. Had Saint Tate used the Velveeta description he would crow at how clever he is. Not.

It's a lost season. Beckman deserves more time to show whether he can improve things.But he has no QB on the roster and Little Nathan is not the answer. Tough sledding ahead unless he finds some speed and talent.

illinihimeyiswhiney wrote on October 19, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Chubacca Moonpie doing his loudest most obnoxious wookie yell over Tate. Its sad how he thinks nobody else is entitled to an opinion but him. If you point out that freedom of the press allows Tate to publish what he wants he tells you you're shouting him down! Pathetic, how he admits to wanking to tate articles while hating the fact that he reads them. Unable to look away he "wank wank wanks" after he is all done reading and typing to tell all of us how much he dislikes tate. Sometimes he shares this fact, other times he does it in silence while trying to convince everyone else Tate doesnt have a right to say anything other than what Pope Moonpie wants us to hear. :(

aaeismacgychel wrote on October 19, 2012 at 12:10 pm

The Illini fanbase is such an odd duck. Sometimes I just don't understand it. It seems the larger our margin of loss, the worse and less prepared we look on the field, and the more secondary violations we pick up, the more support Beckman gets. Remarkable really. I like all the people who can clearly visualize alternate timelines too! Forget that butterfly effect garbage, no, our fanbase and Beckman defenders can clearly see we'd have the exact same record if we had any other coach. I mean it's good to know there's no possibility our players would've bought into any other coach and system and that the system put in place could better benefit our players and put them in position to even have a chance at success. I'm glad we have these soothsayers in our fanbase, because with abilities like they have, they're likely all billionaires as they must have uncanny betting and trading success, so they can help us build our state of the art stadiums and upgraded facilities.

I love it. Urban Meyer would be 2-5 with this team. Nick Saban? 2-5. Les Miles? Chip Kelly? 2-5, 2-5. Huh, I wonder about bill Belichek or Zombie Papa Bear Halas? wait, let me consult the books. Let's see here. Yep, 2-5 and 2-5. This is bloody fantastic! Who knew?!?!

Yep, let's have Beckman rebuild the team like he was hired to do. I mean he's done a bloody tremendous job tearing it down and blowing it up. Hell, who needs an explosives crew, just send in Timmy Beckman and whatever house or building you have in need of a remodel will be gone within seconds! This is all part of the plans folks! You just need to remove the old foundation before building a new one! Ooooooohhhhh oooooohhhh, that's what the secondary violation was all about too! Maybe he can get us a few more violations- major ones this time so we can start from scratch even more! I had no idea all this time. I feel so ashamed for not knowing. TIM BECKMAN FOR SAVIOR!!! How could I not see this before? It's so obvious. *begins self-flagellation* Please forgive me for doubting you, Tim. Please forgive me.

1 illinifan wrote on October 19, 2012 at 3:10 pm

LOL!!! Awesome comment! Really unbelievable that anyone would think that any other coach would have the same record. They are either trying to make themselves feel better, or, trying to make everyone else feel better. I see this in blogs all over, really unbelievable, do not know what they are high on but maybe we all should be on it. It is true I do know a couple of peewee coachs that would, maybe.


Great article! Love the Velveeta comment.


Even his old players are glad he is gone, read here:


Even it seems some of the old fans are glad too, read here:



Look forward to someday having a real football coach, but, that probably will not happen until they let the Chief back.


tunacommander wrote on October 19, 2012 at 3:10 pm

The complete and utter lack of due diligence on the part of the AD Mike Thomas, is amazing. He fires Zook without a gameplan. He doesn't return calls to Mike Leach's reps and on the basketball side, doesn't interview Reggie Theus. He is full of himself and I am sickened by his pompous "I know everything about everything" type attitude.

OKOMIS wrote on October 19, 2012 at 8:10 pm

OK Mr. Tuna… so let me get this straight…. Beckman can’t coach..it was his offensive coordinator all along..  OK.. now Thomas..  Brian Kelly, Butch Jones… Mike Cronin.. surely since Thomas don’t know his pompous ass from a hole in the ground it surely must have been the associate AD at Cincinnati doing the hiring…….. Sh#t!!! who was Groce’s assistant at Ohio who really ran the show there???


houstonillini84 wrote on October 25, 2012 at 2:10 pm

So what is your point? That Beckman must be a good coach because Thomas picked him? Because it sure sounds like that, which is utter logical nonsense. I would think a more important factor would be the results on the field this season, which are terrible. I am not sure what you are watching, but the Illini football team has looked really bad this season and surely some of that reflects on Beckman, no matter who picked him.

JohnWams wrote on October 19, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Groce was a good hire. Beckman was not. Let's not try to sugarcoat it. The football program is in deep trouble. How does Beckman plan to play a Big Ten schedule with the MAC type talent he is recruiting?

OKOMIS wrote on October 20, 2012 at 9:10 am

At this point I’d have to agree with you… hopefully we’re both wrong… my point is Beckman’s failure’s in no way lessens Zook’s… and if he was a bad hire, that doesn’t mean Thomas is a bad AD… they went thru SEVERAL head coaches between Bryant and Saban at Alabama… Ray Perkins???  Really??.. he makes Beckman look like Vince Lombardi.

houstonillini84 wrote on October 25, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Uh, right now NO ONE makes Beckman look like Vince Lombardi.

Not sure where this defense of Thomas comes from. Its not like he was a proven big time AD. He had a lot to prove coming to UI and the Beckman hire sure isnt impressing. He had a chance to get a big name that would create some enthusiasm, and instead he seems to have rolled the dice on an unknown small school coach, and lost. IMO Thomas is 0-1 already, and at best he will be 1-1, at worst 0-2 and he will get canned.

houstonillini84 wrote on October 25, 2012 at 2:10 pm

we have no idea if Groce was a good hire. He hasnt coached a game at UI. People thought Beckman was a good hire too, until the season turned to %^&*. Lets wait and see how the season goes and then we can come to some conclusions about Groce. If Brandon Paul is out starting PG, IMO we will be in big trouble this year and next year too. But lets see how Groce adapts to the players. We'll know a lot more next spring.

Denbert wrote on October 22, 2012 at 2:10 pm


Been here done this. It's not the coaches or players. We've been hiring and firing coaches for 50 years to no avail - from Jim Valek to Zook. The problem with Illinois football has been institutionalized. It's our tradition. Under-achiever and incompetence is our brand.

Illinois could import Alabama's, or Florida's or Oregon's entire football program and within months be looking for a new coach and new players. 

Illinois doesn't have to be a national powerhouse in football but it does need to quit projecting incompetence. Like it r not, football is hurting the image and endowment fund of a great academic institution. Every faculty member and every student has a vested interest in the success of the football program.  

The university can no longer entrust the management of the footbasll program to the Athletic Department. The traditional AD approach hasn't worked. It's time for radical innovation. 

I suggest the University Administrators appoint a panel of multi-disciplined faculty members with expertise in business, mathematics, operations research, game theory, simulation and computer science, psychology and physical education and charge them with analyzing what's not working and to devise and implement new approaches from recruting and physical training to marketing and real time operations. 

Involve the faculty and student body by making football a research project at illinois. We have nothing to lose.