Tate: What'd you expect?

Tate: What'd you expect?

The search for something positive at the Horseshoe began with Terry Hawthorne’s uplifting kickoff returns — he had a 45-yarder — and ended with Illinois capitalizing on a pair of Ohio State fumbles.

In between, ace linebacker Jonathan Brown was injured, the UI defense gave up 567 yards and it was all Buckeyes, 52-22 ... what you’d expect when the Big Ten’s best team plays the worst.

We are again struck by the inability of Tim Beckman’s offense to produce anything resembling a vertical passing game.

Whether it’s spread or pro style, no system can be effective if defenses bravely press the line of scrimmage. And that’s what is happening as the Illini lost their sixth consecutive game, these coming by margins of 28, 28, 17, 45, 14 and 30 points.

In Columbus, Ohio, where the Illini had won seven of the previous 11, they didn’t even attempt to go deep. In the first half, when it was still competitive for a while, Nathan Scheelhaase’s first completion went for minus-7, and the next 12 strikes gained 7, 9, 5, 7, 9, 12, 6, 7, 7, 10, 4 and 1 yard. Some were little more than glorified handoffs.

By contrast, five of Braxton Miller’s first six completions went for 24, 31, 32, 51 and 14 yards. They were like electric shocks to the Illini defense, and he left the game after three quarters with 237 yards on 13 strikes.

Scheelhaase’s 19-for-33 completion rate was impressive but accounted for 97 yards.

Buckeyes build momentum

This isn’t meant to infer that pitching the ball downfield would have changed the outcome Saturday.

Ohio State, which had a battle on its hands with Beckman’s Toledo team and the Illini last year, has grown this season in terms of talent and execution. The Buckeyes now boast huge advantages over Illinois up front, and they’re unleashing a sophomore quarterback who’ll rank among the school’s all-time greats if he stays healthy and completes his eligibility.

Ohio State is building momentum with an unbeaten season in sight and will have a week off to prepare for showdowns against Wisconsin and Michigan.

Illinois was last seen slipping over the edge. If you’re looking ahead to the Dad’s Day game against Minnesota, don’t be fooled by the Gophers’ 35-13 loss to Michigan. Jerry Kill’s gang outdowned Michigan 21-18, but the game got away from them for three critical reasons: (1) Michigan got some major breaks, (2) the Gophers couldn’t finish impressive drives and (3) the Wolverines struck through the air with three stunning, game-turning completions ... you know, the ones that go downfield.

Turning to basketball

The players know. So when Coastal Carolina transfer Sam McLaurin was voted one of the Illini basketball captains, it reveals how much respect he earned in a short period.

“He’s mature and accepted his role right away,” UI senior Brandon Paul said. “He’s shown us that he wants to win just like we do.”

McLaurin (6-foot-8) expects to split time with sophomore Nnanna Egwu (6-11) at center, while also playing alongside him at times.

“Going against Nnanna in practice has helped me with my post moves,” McLaurin said. “His length gives me a better idea of how high I have to go to avoid getting it blocked. Then on some nights, coach (John Groce) lets us play together. Nnanna defends the center, and I defend the 4. Offensively, we are interchangeable.”

Actually, McLaurin is better with his back to the basket, Egwu excelling on 15-foot jumpers.

“I’m still learning the system. Defensively, we need to avoid fouls. That has plagued me in the past,” McLaurin said.
They’ll trade off with each other this afternoon against West Chester in the final exhibition.

Tate’s tidbits

— In addition to Assembly Hall naming rights that might bring $60 million (possibly $2 million for 30 years), UI athletic director Mike Thomas is overseeing a funding model that could provide naming-rights opportunities for 20 to 24 areas of the building.

— For all their difficulties this season, the Illini volleyballers still rank No. 6 in attendance. And five of the top six are from the Big Ten.

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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Carter3105 wrote on November 04, 2012 at 6:11 am

A spiral fall to the bottom leaves but two directions to go, up or continue on a linear path of a BIG 10 door mat. This coaching staff has known success and given the opportunity will raise this program back to a competitive level.    

oandb wrote on November 04, 2012 at 8:11 am

Cry baby Timmy better keep his lame soft comments to himself. The team has regressed as the season has gone on and the lack of a passing attack has been obvious for the whole season. We are a joke nationally and recruits are bailing. Nice first year for a guy who can't coach a five grade flag team well.

As for our AD we need answers. I want to know how he hired this inept staff. I want the reasoning and the process used in coming up with these jokers. They have NO idea what they are doing. Our schemes on both sides of the ball are a national joke.

And for Timmy's latest cry for help- JC transfers- good luck with that. Getting into Illinois is hard enough but JC football guys is near impossible. Hope he doesn't lose any more weight when talking to the powers that be when trying to get the JC kids in. 

I can't believe the situation has deteoriated this fast under Cry baby Timmy and his ship of fools. I get the feeling we haven't seen the worst however.

Moonpie wrote on November 04, 2012 at 10:11 am

Saint Tate seems to nudge Beckman and his offense under the bus--but Beckman has no QB. Little Nathan? No way. A runner pretending to be a QB.

No speed, little talent -- not a QB on the roster. Beckman has his work cut out for him.

billbtri5 wrote on November 04, 2012 at 3:11 pm

just doesn't seem like the team is prepared for the Big 10 Level of play,  offense operates slowly and players are slow to react...


I haven't noticed is they are using many subs, but if you have nothing working try someone or something else...

Denbert wrote on November 05, 2012 at 10:11 am

Illinois needs to think outside the Athletic Department's box.

Bring in the nerds. The PE jocks simply can't solve this problem. Hopeless situation.

It took Richard Feynman to figure out why the Space Shuttle blew up. NASA and Morton Thiokol were too busy pointing fingers at each other and covering up their incompetence.

Sometimes it takes an outsider to see the truth.


The engineering, physics and business schools might do a better job of unravelling this mess.

It's that or joining the MAC at this point.

Time to fish or cut bait.

Quit making the university look incompetent.