Tate: Beckman deserves credit

Tate: Beckman deserves credit

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Saturday’s game wasn’t a work of art. To be honest, it was downright ugly on a frigid, sparsely attended day.

But mark it down. This beats losing.

Bill Cubit’s Illini offense played tight and coughed up four turnovers. Two would-be touchdowns were negated on consecutive fourth-quarter plays requiring reviews.

But it’s a win — 20-16 against hapless Purdue — and the monkey is off Tim Beckman’s back. A week after Beckman and Cubit had a minor sideline squabble, Cubit presented the game ball to the head coach and accompanied it with a hug.

There were hugs all around. This has been a rough patch ... 20 Big Ten games, the last 14 under Beckman. All losses and frequently blowouts.

And through it all, the Illini seniors — with leaders Nathan Scheelhaase and Jonathan Brown coming off injury-plagued seasons — persevered.

Driving the vets

Sometimes, when seasons are going down the drain, coaches chuck it and institute a youth movement. Build for the future. Forget the seniors.

Some of that may be taking place at Purdue ... a raw freshman (Danny Etling) installed at quarterback, several teenagers giving up redshirts recently to gain experience. Illinois took advantage and held Purdue without a point on the last 10 possessions.

When critics wonder how the Illini have stuck together in such a long nosedive, the performance of these seniors is the go-to indicator.

Scheelhaase bounced back from a four-TD season in 2012 and leads the Big Ten in passing yards (2,965) and total offense (3,181). After a slow start, converted receiver Steve Hull has rocketed up among the league’s Top 5 in yardage (169 on 10 catches Saturday) ... center Jake Feldmeyer has joined Corey Lewis in the offensive line ... Brown is the leading tackler ... and so on.

Ten of them have made major contributions in a final season that would be demoralizing for athletes with less character. As a matter of fact, we are just a year removed from a senior class with vastly more talent, but one that did not come close to expectations.

So, yes, Beckman made the correct decision in sticking with his beleaguered veterans, and it finally paid off Saturday at Purdue.

Turning it around

Who would have guessed that a defensive unit, ranked 114th in the country, would rise up after permitting two quick Purdue touchdowns and shut down the Boilermakers the rest of the way. Purdue managed five first downs in the last three quarters.

“We wanted this game so bad,” Cubit said, “and we didn’t play as loose as we can. We didn’t execute. Our timing was off in our screen game. We’re asking Nathan and Josh (Ferguson, 115 yards rushing) to do an awful lot.”

It seemed as though the Illini played not to lose and in some cases couldn’t get out of their own way. The Illini lost two fumbles, and Scheelhaase, who completed 24 of 30 for 257 yards, had two interceptions.

“That’s football,” Cubit said. “We made our field goal opportunities, and Purdue didn’t. Our seniors came through. We never considered doing it any other way. These players have short careers, and they deserve to play. I’ve been with a lot of great coaches, and the goal has always been to win the next game.”

Right at home

Saturday’s win quiets, at least temporarily, the Beckman doubters. And at the risk of being overly optimistic, it creates a new beginning that could be positive for the fans who venture to Memorial Stadium.

In the last 80 years, Illinois has posted one 11-game win streak at home, that running through the 1983-84 seasons under Mike White. This is mentioned because, beginning with Northwestern next Saturday, the Illini will play 11 consecutive home games in which they should be competitive or favored.

The 2014 home slate offers Youngstown State, Western Kentucky, Texas State, Purdue, Minnesota, Iowa and Penn State, and the 2015 campaign begins with Kent State, Western Illinois and Middle Tennessee.

This is not to suggest that Illinois will sweep the four conferences foes, but it’s also true that these four are not the Big Ten’s strongest members.

What lies ahead are 11 home opportunities for the Beckman forces to gain momentum and show enough improvement to bring discouraged fans back into their accustomed seats.

As for the road games, it’s the opposite of 2013, and the Illini will probably be underdogs against Washington, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Ohio State and, we’ll see, Northwestern.

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

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spence1 wrote on November 24, 2013 at 8:11 am

are you kidding me!!! one win in two seasons, an beckman deserves credit.. tim is a joke, the big ten is way over his head.. an banks?? omg, could there be a worst defence coach in HIGH SCHOOL.. need the three pack gone.. beckman, banks, an yes mister ad, your ass too..

jdstieg wrote on November 24, 2013 at 10:11 am

Nice grammar and puncuation..  Worst defence?  Do you mean "worse defensive"?  an?

ChiefIlliniFan wrote on November 24, 2013 at 5:11 pm

Grammar might be bad, but his point is spot on. Time for them to go.

Profilo wrote on November 24, 2013 at 12:11 pm

So the Defense SUDDENLY showed up and dominated an opponent, right? out of the blue? they went from being "inept" or "putrid" as some have called it, to a dominating force. If you beleive this rationale THEN I GOT PLENTY OF SWAMPLAND TO SELL YOU!

Before you answer, 'well, it was Purdue, a "putrid offense"' give yourself the chance to think, and look at yesterday's game in retrospective. If you do you'll realize what some sportswriters (mr. Tate included) omit from their colums (either because they're are too biased or too proud to recognize mistakes): 1. DEFENSE HAS BEEN MAKING PROGRESS since that game against MSU. it did so against PSU and IU and even OSU. And 2. the OFFENSE IS STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS, NOT THE FORCE MANY THINK IT IS. The games against PSU and IU would have been 'W's but for shaky play-making/calling ON OFFENSE. 

So looking at the season thus far, amd pending what happens this coming Sat, is fair to say that improvement is there on ALL FACETS OF THE GAME.

The improvement on offense was not enough to win those two games, but this is more than expected. Cubit's been here less than a year, he's real good but he does no miracles. he had to work with a group of seniors whose confidence was decimated by so much negativity coming from the media and us over the last three years, and that shows on the field; it showed against PSU and IU.

And certainly the improvement on defense hasn't been enough either, but hey, with the youth in the back field plus lack of talent up front, could it be any better? that, my friends, is the question that we should ALL be asking!


DaisyJ wrote on November 24, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Credit for Beckman. Please, first this game was between the bottom feaders of the league. It showed.

All the yards and passes Scheel has done are only worth something when it produces a win. Most of his yards come from the increased number of short passes that come from the increased number of plays in the hurry up. He still throws a wobley pass, and he still cannot find with consistancy a secondary reciever. I will be glad when he is gone. Lot more to a QB than completions or yards. A lot more.

Northwester will beat us by 2 touchdowns. Book it Dano. And moving Beckman on someday will not be any great loss.

ChiefIlliniFan wrote on November 24, 2013 at 5:11 pm

You have to love Daisy. Either Loren was being sarcastic with this article, or, maybe he was drunk when he wrote it. The problem with this win it will give Thomas room to come up with some sort of moronic reason to keep Beckman and continue this nightmare. Not sure why Banks is even in coaching, at least at this level.

Agree with Daisy we have almost no chance of winning next game if we play the way we did against Purdue. It was called the Basement Bowl for a reason. On the plus side we were in a bowl game this year.

Oak Park Illini wrote on November 24, 2013 at 5:11 pm

Looks like the Beckman Watch is off for now; he'll likely be back in 2014. But 1 win against a team lousier than us does not mean he's Big Ten material. I'm sorry, but Beckman's in over his head. Sure, there's been some slight progress, but the continued embarassing moments and questionable clock-management skills outweigh it easily. Let's see how Mr. Thomas reacts after a 2014 season where they'll be lucky to average 30,000 per game at Memorial Stadium.

unimaroon wrote on November 24, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Two things come to mind - first, for the OMGWTF hystericals posting here, you should realize that there is very little interest in the coaching community for a job at Illinois. Bad team, bad fan base, and the bad geography do not make for a an aspirational coaching opportunity. The first rate corn and soybean fields and the world class humidity are not strong selling points.

Secondly, the goal is to improve and keep improving. Get better staff, successfully recruit good players of good character, and WIN more games. These are the building blocks for a quality program and all three objectives have been met this season. Right now, our football team needs to be stable and to improve. We have improvement, we need to be be stable to sustain the improvement.


897RGL wrote on November 24, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Beckman stays at least another year.  But besides improvement on the field, we need improvement on the sideline.  Banks has to go...at a minimum.  He has been unable to exhibit any resemblence of understanding defense, unable to make adjustments during the flow of the game and unable to adjust to the strengths and weaknessess of his talent.  Beckman talks a good game but needs to demonstrate that through actions.  The time managment at the end of the Purdue was inexcusable.  You can't take a knee when the opposing team has timeouts left.  Let's face it, we took a safety in order to run the clock out. This is supposed to be an experienced head coach...time to act like it. 

illinifaningeorgia wrote on November 25, 2013 at 10:11 am

Unfortunately, it looks like Beckman bought himself another year.  However, nothing has changed---he is still way over-matched in the B1G.  I don't see him winning more than 2 conference games next year and hopefully that will be the end of him.

The offense is losing its QB and all of the top receivers.

The defense is losing its best (and only) quality player in Brown.   Unfortunately the rest of this pitiful bunch is coming back. 

Next year's recruiting class is generally regarded as the worst in the B1G.

Profilo wrote on November 25, 2013 at 2:11 pm

looks like many of you folks would have preferred to see the team lose, for the players not to have a single win, for the team to go through the embarrassment of another 0-8 season just to make Beckman look bad (or terrible, whatever).

Woa, that surely makes you great fans...

ChiefIlliniFan wrote on November 25, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Do not think that anyone here wants the players not to win. As fans and alumni we want a capable and competent coach. We know we are not going to get top talent in coaching and players, just someone capable and competent for now.

Thomas is not going to give up on his mistake of a hire easily, it will take a horrible situation to do this. So, in the end, as fans we know Beckman is not that person and do not want to continue the nightmare for future players and fans alike. It is not far to either.

Profilo wrote on November 26, 2013 at 10:11 am

are you sure? cause a lot of you fire-Beckman folks out there sound pretty negative to me (just read the comments and you'll see what Im saying), not just against the coach but the program in general.

And the most hilarious part of this fire-Beckman bandwagon is that it borders self-delusion. 

What makes u think the next hire is not another Beckman in disguise? there aren't many Jerry kills out there you know.

Take a look at the recent coaching hires in Iilinois: Tepper, Turner, Zook, pretty succesful, right? what does that tell you? let me help you think... it means this program is close to crap perception wise.

All one can expect for now is a coach that can take this program from close to crap as it is right now to being decent (say somewhere between 5-7 wins) for at least a couple of seasons. And hey, like it or not, This years team is nearly there. There are no reasons to think that next year wont move closer to a 6plus season.

So after decades having a mediocre program is only fitting that we find oursleves with a so so coach (and I agree Beckman is not a guy who will turn this into a winning prgram year after year). But I rather see this program become so so consistently than to go through the embarassment of another Zookie or another russian rullet in which we findnourselves with a Beckman 2.0

arch73 wrote on November 25, 2013 at 10:11 pm

I agree. . .Beckman deserves credit for beating Purdue.  So what's the point?  A very silly article.