Tate: Illini have fallen - can they get up?

Tate: Illini have fallen - can they get up?

CHAMPAIGN — Experts have pondered, without success, an age-old problem: How do you put Humpty Dumpty together after the fall? How do you revive spirits that have been shattered.

That’s the problem facing UI coach Tim Beckman today.

The 42-3 loss to Michigan State presented another fourth quarter so meaningless that it essentially eased the traffic problem by clearing Memorial Stadium in early shifts.

Students cleared out of the north end zone section as though it was a fire drill. The fans must have thought gold had been discovered in the parking lots. And except for fun-loving band members, there was no fight left in the Fighting Illini.

From the moment Michigan State’s top-rated defense rebuffed Illinois twice at the 1-yard line, the inspired visitors were never stopped. They overwhelmed the homecoming hosts on five withering possessions before kneeling to run out the clock.

Here are obligatory numbers: Michigan State controlled 39 of 60 minutes, converted 14 of 16 third-down opportunities and protected Connor Cook so well that the Spartans quarterback, erratic a week earlier in a 14-0 defeat of Purdue, completed 15 of 16 passes. Illinois was outrushed 269 to 25.


I’m still wondering

Since last summer, my every response to the question, “What do you expect from the Illini this season?” was simply: It depends, in my opinion, how they are able to survive three physical beatings and assumed losses against Nebraska, Wisconsin and Michigan State.

Now we’re all wondering: How do you bring them back after they’ve slipped over the edge?

Whatever you might want to say about Nebraska’s leaky defense or Michigan State’s previously inconsistent offense, these Big Ten rivals are physical in the extreme. They don’t always win, but they pound away and hand out punishment. The Illini lost cornerback V’Angelo Bentley and receiver Steve Hull a week ago (they’ll be back) and probably saw the last of their fastest receiver, Ryan Lankford, on Saturday (shoulder). 

So the Illini, having allowed 39, 56 and 42 points in these games, must somehow regain lost confidence as they face road tests against beatable rivals Penn State and Indiana the next two Saturdays.

There is historical reason to be concerned. Disappointing teams often tend to drift in November. In the past decade, Illinois is 12-48 in the last six games of the regular season, and that includes the 4-2 finish in 2007. The Big Ten losing streak is at 17.

The coaches understand the monumental task.  

Said Beckman: “We have to regather, learn from this and go forward. We can’t have penalties and mistakes.”

It is true, though it wouldn’t have mattered in the long run, that Illinois had the Spartans gasping before a couple of hurtful boomerangs: (1) Nathan Scheelhaase had a TD nullified when center Alex Hill was called for holding, (2) Lankford fumbled on a double reverse that set up Michigan State’s first TD and (3) a promising UI drive was halted at the 1-yard line, setting in motion a 99-yard Spartan assault that ended when UI freshman Jaylen Dunlap deflected Cook’s 29-yard pass into the arms of senior receiver Bennie Fowler.

End of story. It was all downhill from there.


Nothing to show

Reflecting afterward, Illini defensive end Houston Bates spoke of the common thread connecting the last three losses:

“We couldn’t stop the run. They just kept coming after us with the same plays in the second half, and we couldn’t stop them. From this point, we have to look forward to playing the game we love and send the seniors out with wins. I think we will.”

Tim Banks is backed to the wall. 

“Stopping the run has been a challenge all year,” the defensive coordinator said. “We did some good things early and we made a couple of big plays (two sacks) before the half, and then they hit that deflected pass (that made it 14-3).

“We have to keep the disappointment of today from affecting the next game. We will try to find some positives and point them out.”

All the appropriate words won’t change one fact: Illinois got hammered again Saturday, and losses take a toll.


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



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IlliniHimey wrote on October 27, 2013 at 12:10 am

Tim Banks says he will try to find some positives.  Ohhhh!!!!  Ohhh!!!!  I've got one.  How about, "In about 1 month, another abomination of Illini football will be over, and the fans can hope/pray that many coaches are fired."

illini82 wrote on October 27, 2013 at 12:10 am

The administration and BOT have to seriously consider leaving the B10 or dropping football all together. We are a dreadful team in a mediocre conference with no end to the losing in sight.

Our once proud group of 12 season ticket holders has dwindled down to 5 and none of us are sure we'll come for the OSU or NW games. We can't even enjoy tailgating anymore. Going to a game feels like going to work on a cold, rainy Monday morning.

Our last few 30 plus year season ticket and I Fund members think this is finally it and will likley be done. No more. We've had it.

While Beckman isn't the answer, who is? Who will come to what is one of the worst 10 coaching destinations, a real career killer, in BCS conferences...maybe the worst?  

The groundwork for this ineptitude was laid by a decades long apathy, antipathy, and smuggness of the administration and BOT towards Football. Basically Football doesn't matter at Illinois. Guenther cultivated that fertile ground of ineptitude to new lows by keeping failing coaches and systems long after their expiration date. And Mike Thomas comes in without doing his homework and thinks an open check book will solve the problem only to find out that no coach worth his salt will touch this career killing destination regardless of money with a 100 yard pole. So he makes an un-informed, panic striken desparate hire based off of others "recommendations". Like a lawyer who should never ask a question he doesn't know the answer to, MT fired a coach without having a LIKELY replacement already in hand.

So who pays? We, the fans. And yet the powers that be still expect us to support their losing endeavors. You would think being thought of as a LAUGHINGSTOCK of the conference would motivate the powers that be. It hasn't for much of the last 40 years so why should it now.

However we, the fans, donors and season ticket holders do have a choice and that is to stay away and refuse to buy or support the product. Maybe an empty and silent stadium will finally get the Administrations attention but I doubt it. Like so many failed institutions in this once great state all that will happen is that  fingers will be pointed, empty promises will be made and much will be said but little or nothing will be done.

JohnUI82 wrote on October 27, 2013 at 3:10 am

Leave the Big Ten? Sure, let's throw away all that TV money and forget about the basketball advantage of being in a power conference. Would be nice if UI were an all-sports power, but it's not. It's not the flagship university of a football state, so why get bent out of shape because the football program can't compete with Ohio State's? Hoops reigns in Illinois, so I'll be happy if hoops reigns AT Illinois. Go Groce!

Jam wrote on October 27, 2013 at 7:10 am

You are not a dreadful team.  Do not lose hope. Despite some comments in the scope of experience the defense is still young and learning. I am sorry  for those who cannot be excited about this team.  There have been some good moments this season particularly on the offensive side.  Against the No 1 defensive team in the country it did not come out so good, but there is a lot of season left after this team came through the gauntlet of the last 3 teams who are very good teams.  So look to the positive. You are down because you really do care.  After all it really is about those young men who are student-athletes and are still fighting to improve.

illinifaningeorgia wrote on October 27, 2013 at 10:10 am

Loren: Last week you asked in your column "Why all the negativity?"  Now you know what most of the rest of us know--this is a very bad team.

Bwp 5P wrote on October 27, 2013 at 10:10 am

Somehow they turned it around at Wisconsin....maybe we need to hire Alverez....or at least study their turnaround method!

illinifaningeorgia wrote on October 27, 2013 at 10:10 am

This is a minor point, but it addresses a pet peeve of mine.  Illinois DID NOT lose a touchdown because of the holding penalty in the first quarter.  Writers automatically say this when a TD is called back due to a penalty.  You have to look at the penalty and where on the field it occurred--did it have a bearing on the play?  In this case, the touchdown pass would probably not have happened because Hill was caught holding the guy who was about to sack Scheelhaase, or at the very least, cause him to scamble and alter the play.

Moonpie wrote on October 27, 2013 at 11:10 am

The Sir Tate Legend Method: hype the team shamelessly and then toss them under the bus and pretend not to remember what you used to say.

Moonpie wrote on October 27, 2013 at 11:10 am

The Sir Tate Legend Method: hype the team shamelessly and then toss them under the bus and pretend not to remember what you used to say.

AZ intererst wrote on October 28, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Illini will beat Penn State, Indiana, Purdue and Northwestern to end up 7-5 and go to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Arizona.  Have some faith, these guys are playing hard, but at times have been outmatched.  My prediction is they are going to step up here in the last half of the season and surprise everyone. 

tonyjb37 wrote on October 28, 2013 at 1:10 pm
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Fire all the coaches and hire a BIG NAME coach and pay him whatever he wants,give him the keys to the Kingdom. STOP this madness Mike Thomas or whoever controls the destiny of Illini football. From the players all the way up the ladder to the AD we have a bunch of non coaching,non playing sissies running this football program right into extinction. We have already been others whipping boy for years and have been irrellevant so the next thing we have become is extinct.

Denbert wrote on October 30, 2013 at 7:10 pm


Illinois has three alternatives at this point:

1) Let the Industrial Engineering Department manage the football program, 

2) Simply announce Illinois will quit playing football because football damages young brains instead of educating them. 

3) Sell its soul to a wealthy alum with money and a good business plan - like the one  Phil Knight used to convert Oregon's a 3rd tier academic school into a football powerhouse. But do you really want to go down that path? Take a look at this place - it would make Fellini blush!





Illinois-Alabama Line wrote on November 01, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Missing Ron Zook greatly RIGHT NOW!!!!