2-10: What went wrong?

2-10: What went wrong?

It opened the season expecting to reach a third consecutive bowl and maybe even contend for the Leaders Division title. But those thoughts were quickly swept away from the Illinois football team, which ended the year on a 14-game Big Ten losing streak. It got so bad, the AD had to announce his first-year coach would return for the 2013 season. The 2-10 season didn’t happen overnight. Here are college football beat writer’s Bob Asmussen’s 10 signs of trouble:

On Jan. 3, Tim Beckman hired longtime college defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta for the same position at Illinois. Tenuta earned a national reputation while running the defenses at Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and others. The hire seemed like a very good start to a staff for Beckman. But a day later Tenuta changed his mind, pointing to “family reasons” in deciding to stay at North Carolina State. It forced Beckman to reopen his search for a defensive coordinator, and he ultimately settled on Tim Banks. No way to know how it would have worked with Tenuta, but his past points to a high probability for success. Staying at North Carolina State didn’t work out for Tenuta. His boss, Tom O’Brien, was fired despite a 7-5 season. Tenuta and the rest of the staff are staying to work the bowl game.

In June, standout defensive end Michael Buchanan suffered a broken jaw in an off-the-field “incident.” Buchanan, who could have left Illinois a year early for the NFL, had his jaw wired shut. While the actual cause of the break was never released by the school, speculation had Buchanan involved in an altercation with a teammate. The broken jaw didn’t cost Buchanan any playing time, and he was quickly able to regain weight lost while he was unable to eat solid foods. Teammates do fight at times. Mikel Leshoure suffered a broken jaw at the hands of a teammate during his Illinois playing days. But were there any repercussions for the players involved? And how did the rest of the team feel about what happened? Chemistry can suffer if the players aren’t satisfied with the resolutions.

After an impressive opening win against Western Michigan, Illinois had a chance to improve to 2-0 with a game at Arizona State. Problem was, the team didn’t have quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who suffered an injury against the Broncos. And it had no answer for Todd Graham’s Sun Devils. Arizona State jumped to a 28-7 halftime lead on the way to a 45-14 victory. The Illini defense, so good in the opener, gave up 510 yards. And backup quarterbacks Reilly O’Toole and Miles Osei turned the ball over three times.

Any thoughts that the Arizona State game was a fluke ended two weeks later in the late hours at Memorial Stadium. Louisiana Tech took advantage of six Illinois turnovers in a 52-24 victory. The Bulldogs needed less than 24 minutes on offense to hit the half-century mark, snapping the ball quickly on most plays. Just like against Arizona State, Illinois couldn’t adjust to the sped-up pace. Louisiana Tech gave future Illini opponents an easy blueprint to follow.

Illinois self-reported an NCAA violation when Tim Beckman was seen chewing tobacco during the Wisconsin game. Beckman apologized repeatedly for the incident and said it would be “corrected.” College athletes, coaches and officials are prohibited from chewing tobacco during games and practices. Though considered a minor violation, it wasn’t the kind of publicity needed for a struggling program. You can certainly find old photos of coaches lighting up cigarettes during games, but times have changed. Anything that is unhealthy, especially for kids, is going to be an NCAA no-no. The coach should have known that before reaching into the pouch.

His passing yards dropped 749 yards. While his interceptions remained steady at eight, he threw nine fewer touchdown passes. And his rushing yards fell from 624 to 303. Injuries were partly to blame for Nathan Scheelhaase’s diminishing production. And so was an offensive line that struggled with injuries and consistency. The production reduction has some calling for Scheelhaase to switch positions as a senior, turning the quarterback job to O’Toole or incoming freshman Aaron Bailey. But Scheelhaase is one of the most successful quarterbacks in school history and was the first to win consecutive bowl games for Illinois. His leadership skills are considered top-notch.

Remember when Illinois beat Rich Rodriguez-coached Michigan teams by 50 points in consecutive seasons? Seems like a long time ago. For the first time in two decades, the Wolverines shut out Illinois in a 45-0 victory. Two years after Illinois scored 65 points at Michigan Stadium, it was never in the game. And this isn’t a Michigan team on the way to the Rose Bowl. Brady Hoke’s team is talented, but it is far from the best at the school. Illinois was similarly ineffective against lesser Minnesota, failing to score a touchdown at home for the first time since 1998.

The statistics don’t lie. Not this time. Despite the return of several key players from a Top 10 defense, Illinois dropped to 52nd in yards allowed. Despite the promise of improved special teams, Illinois was 103rd in kickoff returns and 118th in punt returns. Despite the return of a veteran quarterback, Illinois was 106th in turnover margin. And that struggling offensive line left Illinois 111th in sacks allowed. And the offense that could never find any kind of consistency finished 118th in yards gained and 119th in points.   

As in Jonathan Brown. And Houston Bates. And Supo Sanni. And Steve Hull. And Terry Hawthorne. And Graham Pocic. And Hugh Thornton. Illinois suffered enough injuries to keep a squad of doctors busy. Before the season started, Beckman made it clear to reporters that he wouldn’t discuss injured players. Maybe he knew what was coming. In one of the worst years in memory, Illinois was hit hard by injuries. On a team that was already thin at multiple positions. The offensive line injuries forced Luke Butkus into full shuffle mode. The only good part was the return of Corey Lewis, who made an unexpected return from two missed seasons. But that wasn’t enough to overcome the lost game time and the interrupted practice routine for the damaged squad. And after the season, the trainer quit.

The interception was bad enough. But what happened next might have summed up the Illinois season. On the last play of the first quarter at Northwestern, the Wildcats intercepted a Nathan Scheelhaase pass. As the Northwestern player returned the ball, one of the officials ran into Beckman, who was following the play on the sideline. Beckman got knocked to the ground by the official, who tossed a yellow flag after the crash. The Illini were penalized for sideline interference with an official, a rule that should be named in honor of the Illinois coach. Earlier in the game, the Illini were penalized after a successful two-point conversion for having players wearing the wrong numbers.

Categories (3):Illini Sports, Football, Sports


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OKOMIS wrote on December 02, 2012 at 12:12 pm



Dan Bloeme wrote on December 02, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Q: What went wrong?


simply . . don't hire a clown


82sage wrote on December 02, 2012 at 1:12 pm

      It started shortly after his TB arrival. Not securing VK as defensive cordinator was a boneheaded move that Thomas should not have allowed. To originaly offer him a co-d position after his success is or was appalling. VK displayed class thoughout the ordeal something TB should have been taking notes on. As the article mentioned Beckmans choice for D coordinator did not pan out for that matter neither did his first choice for O -coordinator pan out either. From here we get co offensive coaches one of which calls plays on first and second down and the next guy calls the plays on 3rd down. Are you serious? This displays a total lack of leadership from TB.

   How about the inability to get plays in to the team in a way in which they can understand? Is this coaching staff getting paid or volunteering? From here the offensive play calling has been atrocious. WHo's fault is it the guy calling plays on the first two downs or the guy calling the plays on third down? What a joke this is on TB.

   Our defense went from an agressive unit that not only sacked the qb they had a lot of tackles for losses. Did the new staff look at any film of what we had here defensively? Our defense was the biggest dissappoinment of the year for me. We should have had a defense that could keep us in games. Banks turned this into a group sitting back on their haunches thinking too much instead of attacking and reacting just playing ball aggesively and having fun. It wa so obvious these guys didn't enjoy our "new" scheme.

  Sometimes coaches need to help players identify who they are. We have a back in Young that has potential to be great. The thing is this guy thinks he is a scat back going to juke and fake people out ala Barry Sanders. Hey Young watch some film of SWEETNESS. You are a big strong back, lower your shoulder and you do the hitting. It doesn't help that the coaching staff tries to send this guy to the edge most of the time of which the defenders have no problem beating him to the edge.  Then we send our small backs between the tackles. Wow couldn't believe what I was watching. On 2nd or 3rd and long the number of 1 yard passes that went nowhere, well we had to set a record. Passing yards ar not recorded like golf scores guys the object is to see that number high! I understand the lack of protection has this staff heard of a middle screen pass? Or a screen pass of any kind?

  Overall this truly was a very bad year and has the ILLINI looking like the laughing stack not only of the conference but D1 football.

   Even having said all that I realize Mike Thomas couldn't get his choice here for the coaching job. In turn TB couldn't get his choice to fill his staff. Removing Beckamn after 1 year would only compicate that and I say all that from the comfort of my armchair...lol


Moonpie wrote on December 02, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Bob, you'e a good guy, Glad you feel better, too.

But how about some reporting? This is what gets me about the Sleepy Gazoo, which thinks it works for the athletic department--ask players what happened with Buchanan. Get the story. You say above finding out how players feel is a good question to ask--so ask it. The Gazoo isn't obligated to shield the program. You work for the fans, not the school.

illinihimeyiswhiney wrote on December 02, 2012 at 4:12 pm


Bob, be ever so thankful for the blessing bestowed upon you by the arrow of justice, the hammer of truth, the flashlight on a sunny day guiding all of us who think we can see with our own eyes!

But heed the warning. God speaks to you and says you work for fans. In light of this I demand you write a piece on moonpie's omnipotence and why it is that the Indian outside of Tate's log cabin way back in 1800's hates Illinois so much. Now THAT would be real reporting. While you’re at it, since you work for me, explain to us why it is that college basketball players buy shoes that are so expensive. And then when you ask how players feel, make sure you don't actually tell us if they feel bad or you will be throwing them under the bus. And then if you ask those questions and they don’t answer... make something up, you work for us and we demand it. Furthermore if the program isn’t giving you access to players... I suggest hunting them down as they prepare for or take finals. Be as intrusive as possible to answer the great god's demands! Finally, Moonpie has the story, he knows all. Just ask him, or better yet hire him so we can finally know the story of the cosmos.



The word of the lord!


Thanks be to moonpie!

tonyjb37 wrote on December 03, 2012 at 6:12 am
Profile Picture

Soft...Soft...Soft there is NO excuse for weakness!

DaisyJ wrote on December 03, 2012 at 10:12 am

Loren, after reading this, is more than ever apparent that Beck should have been sent packing.

Thanks for the summary, confirms my opinion, he is a little flakey. And flakey will not be successful.

houstonillini84 wrote on December 03, 2012 at 11:12 am

hell, what didnt go wrong? But I guess an article about 'what went right' would be pretty short. It was an unmitigated disaster. And what makes it worse is that most fans have little faith or hope it will improve. At least with Zook in the early years we could see great recruiting classes coming in, or in the later years, better coordinators being hired. I cant think of one reason we will be better. Not one. If anything I think we will be worse. Yes maybe Beckman's recruiting class will be a bit better than Zook's later classes, but who thinks Beckman will be here to coach those kids when they are juniors and seniors? And what recruit this offseason will think that the coaches recruiting them will still be there when they arrive on campus the year after next?

An. unmitigated. disaster. Thomas has reduced this program to a near-historical low. Which is no small achievement since we have had some very bad lows.

Moonpie wrote on December 03, 2012 at 11:12 am

illinihimey--it's great to see that I really get your goat. Does Oracle Tate and the Sleepy Gazoo pay you to defend them blindly?

illinihimeyiswhiney wrote on December 03, 2012 at 1:12 pm

I'm only so grateful to be able to give you my goat oh great one. I'll sacrifice my goat for you any time lord of all lords. Why do you test my faith oh great one?! I already know you already know whether or not I'm on that awful "sleepy gazoo" payroll! Only you great one could know if Oracle Tate is doing that because only you could give Oracle Tate his Oracle powers! You wonderful omnipotent being you! And do not doubt my faith to you great being. I do not defend the "sleepy gazoo"!!!! I wouldnt dream of it. I follow you lock step and only you lock step as I have learned you are the only light in this cold dark, blue background website. I support you great one! I stand behind you and only seek to spread you untouchability to the rest of the mere mortals on the earth. 

Fear not oh great one! I am blind, I follow only the blind, and I follow you. I embrace your far right tea party intolorence and share that message with anyone who will listen saying "listen all you who will listen, this is the word of moonpie! Be tea party, beleive only in the things he says and ridicule anyone else. Wank often, and when you're life would be happier if you did something else... do whatever makes you unhappy till the day you die (preferably while wanking)! Don't allow minorities to question you! Ignore the "sleepy gazoo because they make the basketball team play bad! Dont listen to Tate because he's writing from the past and publishing his old handwritten parchment on the internet in the present, he is not to be trusted because he frequently mentions the Indian who is outside the cabin tate resides in in the 1800's!!!!"

Take note all ye, the lord has spoken once again, "Give me your goat, I think it is great"


The word of the lord,

Thanks be to moonpie