They’ve lost 20 consecutive Big Ten games, but the Illini have been tabbed as the favorites this weekend against Purdue. Here’s what coach Tim Beckman had to say during his 12-minute media session Monday:
Football is always on Tim Beckman’s mind. But he had other matters to dissect as well Monday. He referenced the tornado that struck Gifford on Sunday in the first minute of his opening statement. His personal secretary, Nicole Anderson, resides in Gifford.
“What happened up in Gifford hits us directly,” Beckman said. “If we are able to ... help in any way, shape or form, this football team is very willing to do that. Our best goes out to that area and our best goes out to anybody that was involved with that tornado. I know that isn’t football, but that’s what’s important.”
Beckman also said his mother, Pat, underwent successful surgery regarding an undisclosed ailment. When asked after his press conference what type of surgery his mother underwent, Beckman preferred to keep the matter private.
“I don’t like to spread my news out there, but there was a blessing (Monday) of my mother coming out of surgery,” Beckman said. “Being a football coach and being seven hours away, sometimes you’re not able to be at those things you want to be at. As a loving son and one who owes a bunch to his mother, I’m so happy to hear that everything was such a great success.”
Handling the line
The offensive line reshuffling against Ohio State might not take place against Purdue. Beckman sounded like Tony the Tiger assessing the recovery of left tackle Simon Cvijanovic (right), whose string of 20 straight starts was snapped against the Buckeyes because of a right high ankle sprain he sustained at Indiana.
“Great,” Beckman said when asked about the condition of Cvijanovic. “He is getting a little bit of a rehab type deal that he’s doing (Monday). We’re excited that hopefully we’ll be able to make that determination on Thursday, but I’d say Simon is probable right now.”
Purdue’s defensive line isn’t like the ones Illinois has faced already this season.
“As a group, we gave up too many sacks, but to play against the likes that they’ve played against this year, and the way Ohio State is playing defensively and Michigan State is playing defensively and Wisconsin, I think they’ve really stepped up their game,” Beckman said. “You can see a remarkable difference. (Offensive line coach) A.J. Ricker has done a phenomenal job.”
Illinois is actually picked to beat the Boilermakers. Oddsmakers have cast Illinois as a seven-point favorite. The people in Las Vegas are usually pretty spot on when it comes to these items, so that’s an encouraging sign in a season that has seen few, particularly in Big Ten play. It’s the first time Illinois has been cast in that position since Big Ten play began almost two months ago.
“We knew we had to play a perfect football game to beat Ohio State,” Beckman said. “There’s a reason they’ve won so many in a row. It comes down to winning. We all know that, but this football team has become competitive.”