Tim Beckman will try to win his first game in Jim Delany’s conference. Here are three items beat writer MATT DANIELS gleaned from the Illinois coach’s Monday news conference in the Memorial Stadium press box:
Music blares already at Illinois practice. A mixture of rap, rock of all forms and even some country.
Beckman might want to crank the speakers up even more this week. Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium added more than 6,000 seats this offseason, and all four home games this year have topped 90,000.
The last two Illinois home games combined haven’t topped 90,000 (89,921 paid attendance for the Miami (Ohio) game and the Cincinnati game). It’s a whole different environment Illinois will walk into Saturday.
“It won’t probably be as loud there as it is at one of our practices,” Beckman said. “This is a great place to play a football game (and) a great atmosphere for football. It’s part of playing in the Big Ten. You get the greatest opportunity to play in outstanding atmospheres that you can talk about for the rest of your life.”
2. Award winners
With half the Big Ten taking a bye week Saturday, the number of freshmen playing went down. Aaron Bailey didn’t exactly wow the crowd in Champaign against Miami (Ohio), but his efforts were good enough to take home Big Ten Freshman of the Week accolades. Bailey ran for 56 yards on six carries, including a 6-yard touchdown run, and completed his first collegiate pass.
“That’s outstanding,” Beckman said of the honor. “It’s well-deserving. He’s an extremely great young man, and not just a great football player but a great person.”
Matt LaCosse received some recognition Monday, too. The Naperville native was named the national Tight End of the Week by the College Football Performance Awards after his performance (three catches for 68 yards and two touchdowns) against the RedHawks.
“You can see how he’s progressed as a tight end from a guy that played quarterback in high school,” Beckman said. “As this season continues, you’ll see more and more of Matt and the way that Matt is capable of producing.”
3. Risk takers
Beckman doesn’t like much surprise. He’s a fan of routine much like other college football coaches. That doesn’t mean he won’t try to pull a few fast ones past opponents — like Illinois has done this season with its two-point conversion attempts and the onside kick in the first half against Miami (Ohio) last Saturday. He hasn’t shown a fake punt or a fake field goal yet, but don’t think he won’t.
“I like playing the game with a little bit of, I guess, risk,” Beckman said. “I don’t know if I’m a riverboat gambler by any means. That’s the excitement about competition and the excitement that these football players deserve. If we have opportunities that we see that we can, we’re going to take them.”
Much was made Monday about the onside kick Illinois attempted and successfully recovered against the RedHawks. Beckman said the tactic was planned for after Illinois scored its second touchdown, regardless of when that materialized.
“That’s how we game-plan,” Beckman said. “Nothing’s done out of the spur of the moment in any program. They know when we’re going to fake a field goal. They know when we’re going to do these things. You don’t surprise them. Are we going to do that down the road? Yes. So prepare for it.”