1. Party time
Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit celebrated his 60th birthday Monday. Beckman said the team gave him an orange cake Saturday night, right before several members of the coaching staff went to the Florida Georgia Line concert at the State Farm Center.
“I think he put it in his car,” Beckman said. “I don’t think he actually took it into the concert, (but) we had a great time.”
Cubit said he didn’t have any big birthday plans — other than catching up on some sleep.
“That’d be about the best thing,” Cubit said with a laugh.
He might laugh again if he has the same experience at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Champaign like he did a few years ago on his birthday when he was the head coach at Western Michigan.
“I walked in to turn in my driver’s license and they were going to give me another one, but they said, ‘Hey, you were born in 1963,’ ” Cubit said. “I said, ‘No, ‘53.’ They go, ‘Well, it says ‘63, so it’s going to cost you $200 to change it.’ I said, ‘Nope, I was born in 1963.’ I walked out, and I felt a lot younger that day. I feel great. I really do.”
2. Night owls
This Saturday marks the first night home game against a Big Ten team for Illinois in almost exactly five years. The last one happened on Oct. 18, 2008, with Illinois blowing out Indiana 55-13. It is the third night game of Beckman’s tenure at Illinois, but he was used to coaching at night when he was at Toledo for three seasons and Oklahoma State’s defensive coordinator for two seasons.
“I’ve been involved in more night games lately, but I do think our players enjoy playing at night,” Beckman said. “Talking to them, they really do.”
Linebacker Jonathan Brown agreed.
“I know it’s going to be electric,” he said. “First night game of the year, it’s going to be fun.”
3. What can Brown do for you?
Tackle the ball carrier. Like he has shown in every game this season, Brown is the unquestioned leader and most talented defensive player Illinois has. He has played well in two career games against the Badgers, compiling 19 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, one sack and a fumble return. He might have to produce those numbers in Saturday’s game for Illinois’ defense to have a chance of slowing down Wisconsin.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be around some great ones, and he ranks right up there with them,” Beckman said. “The thing that I think sets him apart is his work ethic. He’s very apt to be a coach, and he wants to help the young players. That’s really what separates Jonathan from maybe some of the other ones I’ve been around.”