Tate: I'm seeing red! (w/videos)

Tate: I'm seeing red! (w/videos)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Progress? It is in the eye of the beholder and, at this juncture, the Tim Beckman jury is wavering.

On consecutive road trips, Illinois led Penn State late and lost in overtime, then led Indiana in the third quarter before unraveling, 52-35. There are signs, but is it progress?

That’s Tim Beckman’s charge, you see. He must redirect downcast arrows and, in brief spurts, there have been moments of hope.

But somehow, someway, he must win a Big Ten football game. We’ll withhold judgment for another week as Illinois is too lacking on defense to think about upsetting unbeaten and well-rested Ohio State next weekend.

But here we are, sneaking up on 20. How do you stop a runaway freight? Even Beckman’s strongest supporters must acknowledge that Illinois’ defense was beyond inept Saturday ... outweighing whatever improvements we’ve seen with the offense and special teams.

On one sideline, there’s head coach Kevin Wilson in command of a rousing, big-strike attack that is putting up basketball numbers and could be top 10 this week in total offense.

On the other sideline, Beckman has a direct role — he actually handles the cornerbacks — with a defense that is as porous as a bottomless bucket. 

Indiana scored from 64 yards (early) and 75 yards (late) on routine handoffs to Tevin Coleman, the latest in a list of 200-plus rushers. And Cody Latimore, who was apparently invisible in the Illini secondary, caught 11 passes for 189 yards and three TDs.

Beckman, having turned over the UI offense to Bill Cubit (he has revived Nathan Scheelhaase), works closely with coordinator Tim Banks, and these two are essentially responsible for what has evolved into a disaster.


D for the defense

What we witnessed on both sides Saturday supports the theory that it’s possible — through formations, strategy and strong passing arms — to produce an effective offense via scheming.

But it takes deep talent to excel on defense. Illinois is lacking and it can’t be faked. You either have the muscle to stop the run or you get run over. And you can’t put eight in the box without leaving your corners on an island. 

As we saw, Indiana defeated Illinois with half a team. Indiana insiders say the best four Hoosier defenders are a fifth-year senior who arrived as a baseball pitcher (safety Greg Heban), a walk-on defensive end (Nick Mangieri), a freshman linebacker (T.J. Simmons) and a converted safety (cornerback Tim Bennett).

Meanwhile, Wilson runs an offense with two solid quarterbacks, a running back averaging more than 100 yards per game, and a receiver corps so stacked that some might be better employed to bolster the secondary.

Yes, you can pull upsets with an aerial cleverness or punish underlings like Illinois with basic plays, but you can’t win consistently without rugged, reactive talent on the defensive side ... the kind of players that are scarce and usually sign on with elite powers.


Youth movement

Back to the point: Is it realistic that Beckman, with time, can outwrestle this monster?

Forget about Saturday’s poorly executed fake punt — awful timing, Illinois trailed only 42-35 with 12 minutes left — or the decision to punt on fourth and 3 early at the Indiana 33 (netted 13 yards).

We can argue about play calls without resolution. What we need to know is whether there is a fundamental weakness in the scheme or the athletes are simply 600 yards bad.

Linebacker Jonathan Brown, who starred for a defense that was No. 7 nationally two years ago, blames it on youth.

Fresh from spearing Illinois’ second interception of the season, Brown said: “When these guys mature, the defense will be fine. They’re just young, and Indiana has one of the best offenses I’ve seen since I’ve been here. They’re good. They broke it open in the fourth quarter.”

OK, but let’s be honest. If a Big Ten cellar dweller is going to climb, it begins with Indiana and Purdue ... and half of that duo won going away.


Hoop dreams

Athletic director Mike Thomas calls John Groce’s Illini a “Tale of Two Teams” because the quintet on the floor is so different from the group coming off the bench.

This may be a “new club” to Groce but the starters are more experienced than most rivals as they field two fifth-year forwards, a fourth-year junior in Rayvonte Rice and two juniors who were regulars last season.

It may turn out that, at the same stage in development, these freshmen have more basketball skills. But, for the time being, they are not better than veterans who are two, three and four years older. Even as coaches treat redshirting like it’s the plague — what they really want are one-and-doners — we may again see the advantages of having older players.

Speaking of one-and-done, Curie’s Cliff Alexander will be untouchable this week as the “dead period” starts Monday as we approach Friday’s signing date.


NOTEWORTHY: Unhappiness broke out at Kansas State late Friday as Bruce Weber’s talent-shy team fell to Northern Colorado 60-58 ... Weber commenting: “We have too many excuses and not enough desire.”


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



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PortlandIllini wrote on November 09, 2013 at 11:11 pm

The "Feckless Illini"  defense actually gave up plays of 75, 64, 50, 41, 40 and 35 yards to an Indiana team which has a losing record.    Mr Banks and Mr Beckman have transformed an Illini defense which was among the best in the Big Ten to Worst in the Universe in just two years.    You can't blame the players for this stunning lack of preparation and consistenly poor performance:  this is clearly a coaching issue.      Mike Thomas:   you hired these guys.  They haven't demonstrated any ability to compete in the Big Ten,  much less vie for a championship.   Now you must have a strategy on how to get better coaches into this football program or Illinois will be hunting for a new AD as well.   

Green Shirt wrote on November 10, 2013 at 7:11 am

Portland, I doubt that Beckman will be fired after this year for three reasons: 1) The team has shown some improvement (primarily because of Bill Cubit), 2) Illinois cannot afford to be pay another former coach, and 3) it would be very difficult to attract a proven or "up-and-coming" coach to our "graveyard of coaches", a perception that would only be strengthened by firing Beckman after two years.  That said, change will be forthcoming, probably with the replacement of Tim Banks.  However, this move will necessitate finding a proven DC who is willing to come to Illinois to work for a head coach who is on the "hot seat" and to coach a pool of players who (to this point in time) have not shown much ability. 

jhelms wrote on November 10, 2013 at 9:11 am

If Thomas doesn't fire Beckman, then he (Thomas) needs to be fired!

DaisyJ wrote on November 10, 2013 at 10:11 am

You give them a "D" for defense. Geeze,,how do you get an "F",  have them score

53 or more...If ever an F is deserved, it is this groups  of bad players with a bad coach  thinking they can play man to man  defense. You must have been confused because Indiana also deserved an F and they won

PortlandIllini wrote on November 10, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Let's look at the record,  Mike Thomas.     Zook's teams were 9-4 in 2007 and lost in the Rose Bowl,  5-7 in 2008,  3-9 in 2009,  7-6 in 2010 and won a Bowl game, 7-6 in 2011 and won a Bowl Game after you famously refused during midseason  to express confidence in Coach Zook  and the team went  into a 0-6 coma.     Then  your hand-picked coach and staff led the squad to a 2-9 record their first season.   And now they are firmly entrenched at the bottom of the Big Ten in their second season and are working on a 20 game Big Ten losing streak.    Your decisions cratered a program which won consecutive bowl games against Baylor and UCLA:    you need to fix this.     

Don Dukeman wrote on November 10, 2013 at 3:11 pm

If you look at the defenses on the other teams Beckman and Banks always were in the lower 10 percent in the nation, giving up a ton of yards and points.  Beckman and Banks were hand picked by AD Thomas and all three should be in the unemployment line.  Since Beckman became coach the Illini football team has been an absolute embarassment!

Illini Drumline Guy wrote on November 10, 2013 at 8:11 pm


Stop the Zook revisionist history

The two bowl wins were over a 6-6 Baylor team and a 6-7 UCAL team that had to petition to the NCAA just to allow them to be in the bowl.  UCLA lost their last game 50-0! Illinois barely won and it took an interception return to win.

In Zook's last Big Ten win he admitted to not knowing the score while calling for a two point conversion. Also, they lost the last 6 games...care to watch the Illini v. Minnesota game again, while the offense ground to a complet hault.

A change had to be made.
Whether or not Beckman is the right guy remains to be seen, but football does not get turned around in a year, or two. Need three years at least.

Anyone still reading, can we please agree that the Bailey thing is over until next year? game tied and Bailey is in after a key turnover and gets stuff on 3rd and 4th down....pa lease...



tonyjb37 wrote on November 11, 2013 at 10:11 am
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Tim Banks and Tim Beckman should never ever get another job coaching at any level all they bring is false hope and crushed dreams of young guys that make the horrible choice of going to play where they are coaching. Mike Thomas is an idiot hiring these two clowns Tim Banks and Tim Beckman. What was he thinking? Things are not improving it is only getting worse. If you want these idiots to lose their jobs, there is only one real way to make that happen and that is don't go to the games. The fans that are not going to see this clown show already need to continue to stay at home and the fans that do continue to waist their time and money need to stop and do what the smart fans that are not attending games are already doing. I have four words and can't get any clearer than this for you fans that want heads to roll for this continued debacle "STOP GOING TO GAMES"! And for you idiots that think that going every week is supporting your team, you are part of the problem and are the reason these clowns are still coaching and continuing the embarrassment.  

walker wrote on November 11, 2013 at 10:11 am

The Zook to Beckman transition sort of reminds me of the George W to Obama transition.  Most were fed up w/ Zook and felt that the program needed hope and change. We got what we asked for didn't we ?

jjohnson wrote on November 11, 2013 at 1:11 pm

I am not as skilled at calling people names behind the mask of anonymity as are many of the contributors here. 

The defense was terrible in the second half, no question about it, and while it was not much better at the start of the game, it did have its first half moments, but stop to pay attention for a moment: in the first half, freshman Mosely made a tremendous defense in the end zone only to be out-jumped by a taller receiver who caught a perfectly thrown ball; Mosely and Day both got burned in the third quarter by that same receiver -- but no free safety in sight, yet, stop to think, neither of our free safeties had played in a Div 1 game prior to this season. Maybe Jonathan Brown knows a thing or two that some of the critics do not! It is sad that both of Carlson's long TD runs were the exact same play through the exact same hole and one could see that in both cases Monheim just missed stopping the play at the line, but there is really no excuse for the same play's succeeding twice like that. But I see Teko Powell improving every game and the three frosh corners doing better and I have some hope. 

If one writer does not want to "waist" his time, that is his right; he can study spelling, but it is my team and I am pulling for them to win all the time because that is what true fans do.

John Johnson


DaisyJ wrote on November 11, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Hey, Mr. Johnson,,,

Are you the all telling who you are guy?  Well for starters, the name Johnson

is only 3rd behind Smith and Jones regarding last name common names.

So, if your really are who you say  you are, posting from Tuscon, then lets have your address, phone number, and if you are a first or second cousin to some of the coaches. Then, as you say, you will be unmasked.....ha ha

Profilo wrote on November 11, 2013 at 3:11 pm

In Zook's last days with the Illini he responded to accusations against his tenure by noting that this town had greater problems than its football team. 

I didn't get what he meant at first, and i was never a fan of the guy so I though he was simply trying to deflect some of the accusations against him. 

But after weeks of reading incendiary, fire-everyone comments like some above, and after familiarizing myself with the media covering the team, I think I know what he meant: 1) there are many fans with an entitlement mentality, who want great outcomes w/o the pains and sacrifice thay always must be endured to reach those outcomes, and 2) there many sportswriters like Mr Tate who devote their writing to intensify that mentality even if they lack sound reasons in what they write.

I'll devote to the latter aspect here in hopes that it can help change some peoples minds.

First this article is flawed from begining to end. Its flawed because it puts Indiana next to purdue as the teams Iilinois should beat at a minimum. This is NONSENSE. Sure we may think of IU football in recent memory and reach the same conclusion. But last Sat IU football is way way different than your average IU football. You see, the team we faced last Saturday has the 2nd best offense in the B1G (trailing only OSU) and nationally it is ranked as follows: 12th in passing, 33rd in rushing yards and 10th in total scoring.

Would you call such a team one that the illini should beat? Ask PSU who lost to them by more than 40, or MSU, one of if not the best defense in the nation who still allowed more than a couple dozens to the Hoosiers, or Michigan or Minnesota... You get my point, right?

So IU could only be compared to purdue if having a national top ten scoring offsense is just as having the 123rd offense (in purdues case). But if this is so then I guess Mr Tate could also start writing that the illini defense ranked as the 106th in points allowed is a national superpower. Of course, neither makes sense.

 This article is flawed also because its central premise is also flawed. much of Loren Tate's writng assumes that this team's problems MOSTLY come down to an "inept defense". But he "forgets" to mention that the defense got two consecutive stops in the 2nd quater (one punt and one forced fumble) out of which the offense capitalized... Tada NEITHER.

And that my friends,the offense inability to take advantage of those stops was also a reason why we lost. The Michigan defense took a beating of almost 50 points from IU AT HOME, but their offense bailed them out. The Gophers, which have a better D than us, also allowed almost 40 and equally their offense made the difference. 

With this I dont mean to take from the illini the SLIGHT improvement it has made, only to remind fans that even if many sportswriters wont admit their mistaken judgement, the improvement on offense and special teams has been less significant than what the first four games made us think. Because we got two 40plus pts wins against nobody (SIU) and nobody (miami, OH) and got extremely lucky against a less than impressive Cincy team, many columnists started filling our ears and brains with the idea that with Cubit we suddenly had fixed our offsense. But no, we haven't fixed it yet, at least not at the level of our perception. 

So there you have it folks, this is what the departed Zook meant, and heck was he right (at least this time). Hopefully one day we can become more classy and educated fans. When we stop swallowing all the nonsense we find in the media,and have the guts to endure the pains of a rebuilding project, then maybe well find ourselves a football time well feel proud of. Until then, let these guys work for one more year, then we'll see how good or bad our team still is.

Ps: disagreeing with the ideas of Columnists like Lore Tate doesnt make me a "Beckman" supporter. It makes me an illini fan who is capable of his own thoughts