Football team braces for Buckeyes
Actually not much. Simon Cvijanovic won’t get a chance to talk to the media for at least another week. That’s because the Illinois starting left tackle for the first nine games won’t play against Ohio State this Saturday. He suffered a high ankle sprain on his right ankle in the first quarter at Indiana and didn’t play the rest of the game against the Hoosiers. Beckman ruled him out for this Saturday.
True freshman Austin Schmidt replaced Cvijanovic against the Hoosiers and will do so as well against Urban Meyer’s defense. The move not only affects the left side of the offensive line for Illinois but also the right side. Schmidt had spelled right tackle Corey Lewis at times this season, but Lewis and his shaky knees had to play more at Indiana.
Expect more of the same against Ohio State, although Illinois could use Patrick Flavin some at either tackle spot. Or put left guard Michael Heitz, who Beckman has said is the lineman best suited to play multiple positions along the line, at a tackle spot if need be, which would cause even more shuffling.
“I thought Austin Schmidt came in ... and did a good job,” Beckman said. “Corey played more reps than Corey’s played in basically three years. I was proud of the way that he fought and continued to play.”
Beckman hasn’t lashed out at the fourth estate about his team’s defensive struggles. Yet. Pretty safe to assume he is getting weary of trying to explain Illinois’ defensive shortcomings. Indiana running back Tevin Coleman earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors for his performance against Illinois.
Braxton Miller, or any number of Buckeyes, should like their chances of taking home that accolade after this Saturday. Especially if the Illinois defense doesn’t look drastically different than the one at Indiana.
“It’s disheartening missing tackles or overrunning plays,” Beckman said. “(The offense) just goes back out there on the football field and tries to score points. There’s no finger-pointing or anything like that going on (with) this football team. It’s not effort. It’s more of intelligence, I’d say. Not that our players aren’t smart, but ... we’re trying to get to the football so hard that at times (against Indiana) Coleman just cut it right back on us and hit the seam.”
Beckman knows the heat is on to produce wins. And to end the 19-game Big Ten losing streak, 13 of which have come with him on the sidelines.
“(The losing streak) being brought up is something that I’d rather stay away from,” Beckman said. “We’re trying to stress as much positiveness as we can.”
Lose against Ohio State and Beckman becomes only the second Big Ten coach in history to suffer a defeat in his first 14 Big Ten games at a school. Barry Alvarez started his tenure at Wisconsin by losing his first 14 Big Ten games.
“I’m blessed to be the head football coach here,” Beckman said. “I want to win every game. I want to win it as bad as anyone else wants to win those football games. All I ask our players is to give effort. We’ll get this stuff corrected. Play as hard as you can, and right now, that’s all we ask. That’s what they’re doing. I can honestly say our players are playing hard.”