Tate: Bullied again


Maybe it was those all-orange uniforms (burn ’em). Maybe it was getting accustomed to night vision or the chillier winds ... but, as we all know, it was the precision and physicality of Wisconsin’s Badgers.

Outclassed from the start, Tim Beckman’s Illini found themselves trailing 21-0 before they regained their equilibrium Saturday night. To their credit, they created some excitement for the crowd of 47,362 with an aerial assault that cut the halftime lead to 28-17 and kept on producing yards.

But the Badgers returned from the midway breather to do what they do, overpowering the Illini and coasting to a 56-32 victory. The twin daggers, James White and Melvin Gordon, banged their way for 240 yards before stepping aside, while the Illini needed some late runs to reach 72 yards on the ground. 

If anybody asks about those two Badger streakers, “They went thataway ... and they’d still be running if the gun hadn’t sounded.”

You might say Illinois won the touch football portion of the game, accumulating 319 yards in the air. But as we see, the Big Ten is a physical league, and Wisconsin is at its best in ground-assault, tackle football.

 

When will it end?

In those demoralizing early stages of the first and third quarters, the gnawing question swirled through the Memorial Stadium stands: Will the Big Ten losing streak, which reached 16, end this season?

Maybe, just maybe, it could happen if the Illini stopped shooting themselves in the foot. Two of Saturday’s first three possessions immediately backfired due to a (1) a low-block, 15-yard penalty that nullified a screen pass gainer and (2) a fumbled reverse that handed the ball to Wisconsin on the 8-yard line.

Mistakes aren’t acceptable against a team that seldom makes them. Wisconsin lays claim to having the nation’s fewest turnovers since 2010, giving up 14 fumbles and 17 interceptions in 48 games (none Saturday). In that span, they’ve taken the ball away 66 times.

But we’re kidding ourselves to think the Illini can win with the quality of defense they’re presenting. It just isn’t good enough.

 

Wrong-way Wildcats

Oct. 5 was undeniably Northwestern’s biggest home game in years: Homecoming vs. Ohio State. Some called it Evanston’s “Super Bowl,” the date circled well in advance and unleashing deep emotions ... a heavy-handed commitment that led to, as it turned out, a heartbreaking defeat and a head-splitting hangover.

The post-loss letdown resembled a sputtering auto trying to run with the gas gauge on empty. The Wildcats barely put up a fight in the 35-6 loss to Wisconsin, and were outplayed 20-17 by Minnesota on Saturday.

It wouldn’t be fair to Pat Fitzgerald’s team to overlook injuries, particularly those that kept Kain Colter and Venric Mark on the sidelines Saturday. But yes, Louise, it really is an emotional game, and Northwestern appeared numbed from the moment James Manuel returned an INT for a 14-7 Gopher lead.

From the Illini standpoint, spiraling Northwestern no longer appears to be beyond reach.

 

On deck: Sparty

Purdue, the Illini opponent targeted as the most beatable, appeared to grow horns against Michigan State in a 14-0 loss. 

The Spartans remain — because of their defense — the Leaders Division team with the best chance of defeating Ohio State in the Big Ten playoff. But their erratic offense could leave them vulnerable here next weekend if the Illini can turn it into touch football.

 

Tate’s tidbits

— Shahid Khan, international auto parts magnate who has made major contributions to the UI and the DIA, hasn’t lost interest in the Illini while concentrating his athletic interests in the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Fulham soccer team (which he purchased for $319 million). Mike Thomas, Illini AD, was Khan’s guest in Denver last weekend and will travel to Jacksonville for an NFL game later on.

— Illinois was willing to resume football relations with Missouri, but the Tigers’ SEC obligations prevented it. Maybe it’s a good thing. The Tigers outgained Florida 500-151 and coasted 36-17. Whoever heard of a 7-0 SEC team not in the Top 10?

— You can be sure that coach Bret Beilema, who left Wisconsin for Arkansas, misses the Illini. His Razorbacks have lost five straight, the last four SEC games by margins of 12, 20, 45 and 52 (by Alabama).

— Insiders claim that Ron Zook, who was ready to serve with Jon Gruden at Tennessee before Gruden rejected the job, will seek the Miami (Ohio) head coaching position, as will another former UI coach, Eric Wolford of Youngstown State.

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

 

Comments

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IlliniHimey wrote on October 19, 2013 at 11:10 pm

Oh good Lord Loren, Northwestern may be stumbling, but they could field their women's Lacrosse team vs. Illinois' defense, and they would find a way to beat us in football.  A stumbling Northwestern football team is better than this pile of crap.

IlliniHimey wrote on October 19, 2013 at 11:10 pm

And another thing Loren, Michigan State was erratic today only because they found themselves in situations where they had to throw the ball.  Against Illinois, they won't have to throw. 

Profilo wrote on October 20, 2013 at 12:10 am

agreed, the D is not good enough, but I think is really shortsighted to place the blame more on the D than on Cubit's offense, at least this time it is. Look, if you take away the two turnovers of the O the final score would've been 42 not 56.  Now look at the score per quarter: the D played worse when the offense was plain inept; when the O was scoreless and quickly forcing the D to come back on the field, the D allowed more points than when the O worked (what a revelation, Huh). If this is not convicin enough, check the drives of both teams offenses. the illini offense had two plus mins possessions only twice; every other time it was quickly shut and its possessions were of little more than a minute (if not less). Bucky on the other hand, was consistently getting drives of 2, 3, 4 and more minutes ( when it stayed on the field for less than a minute it was converting the illini fumbles into quick TDs). 

So yeah, the deffense is not good enough and surely not talented enough, but its poor results in this game came also from the offense. i think we as fans should see things with a little more brain and less gut. and reporters too. I 'm afraid Mr. Tate and others at ILLINIHQ are suffering from an understandable case of Cubit-bias. But reporters should know better...

Moonpie wrote on October 20, 2013 at 10:10 am

Well, Sir Tate Legend certainly knows a thing or two about bullying since he's been a sports columnist bully his whole career. I agree with others above, and especially that Sir Legend dings the D a little too much and forgives the fact that Little Nathan isn't a top flight QB capable of consistency and leading a team to a title, stats notwithstanding. The D is young and too small and not fast enough yet. And they have some injuries. Anyway, as more losses pile up, lookf or Bully Tate to toss the gloves off and blame it all squarely on fans.

Moonpie wrote on October 20, 2013 at 10:10 am

Well, Sir Tate Legend certainly knows a thing or two about bullying since he's been a sports columnist bully his whole career. I agree with others above, and especially that Sir Legend dings the D a little too much and forgives the fact that Little Nathan isn't a top flight QB capable of consistency and leading a team to a title, stats notwithstanding. The D is young and too small and not fast enough yet. And they have some injuries. Anyway, as more losses pile up, lookf or Bully Tate to toss the gloves off and blame it all squarely on fans.

ajay-999 wrote on October 20, 2013 at 12:10 pm

someone needs to telll Nathan Stealhouse to lose the cute little crosses he paints on his cheek every gameday.  he started that crap after Tebow started his "Tebowing", and the Illini haven't had a decent record since....  

he needs to try and become a half decent quarterback. he's wasted 4 years of my and every other Illini fan's time and energy.  try tending to business instead of making religious statements on Saturdays.

and while i'm ranting, tell that canard Tim Beckman to takes his dog and pony show back to the MAC.  we need real talent in the Big Ten.

illini4fan wrote on October 20, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Just a couple things, first off I like the all orange unis, they just look ugly because we play ugly.

Second, I sometimes wonder if our defense could stop the local JFL team from scoring!

and of course Moonpie is still an idiot!!!!!!