With Illinois’ 45-0 blowout loss in Ann Arbor on Saturday, the Illini fell to 2-5 in a year where nothing seems to be going right. First, a Nathan Scheelhaase ankle injury that sidelined the Illini signal caller for weeks two and three and now a concussion may keep him out of the Illini’s homecoming game on October 27th against Indiana. In a season with seemingly nothing to play for, a win versus Indiana will surely boost the spirits of Illini nation.
Although the Illinois-Indiana football rivalry lacks the intensity of its basketball counterpart, one thing is for sure; Illinois fans love beating Indiana regardless of the sport. From men’s basketball to women’s golf, beating Indiana always feels good. The Illini will have their chance to provide a little relief to its frustrated and angry fan base when Kevin Wilson’s team invades Memorial Stadium in two short weeks. But first, let’s look back at the debacle in Ann Arbor and see what exactly went array.
After the miserable performances against Penn State and Wisconsin to open conference play, I did not think that this Illini team could sink to a lower level. I was terribly wrong. Once again, this team continues to surprise fans and analysts alike with how poorly they continue to play. After watching the game from Saturday it is obvious that Illinois either ranks last in the conference in talent or Coach Tim Beckman has made terrible mistakes that makes these players want to quit on him.
First, the talent Beckman inherited when he was hired last November includes NFL caliber players in the defensive front seven, a quarterback who has led Illinois to back-to-back bowl wins for the first time in school history and a defense that ranked near the tops of many major categories last season. So, why the enormous drop-off in production? Was the loss of AJ Jenkins that severe where the Illini cannot rack up over 150 yards of total offense? It looks like Beckman is in way over his head in Champaign and with the fan base losing patience fast, he better step up his recruiting or his days may be numbered.
Looking at the specifics of what happened in Ann Arbor, a few plays really summarized the Illini’s season as a whole. First off, on 4th and 1 in Michigan territory, the Illini MUST go for it. Even Beckman must have known that the chances that Illinois pulls off the upset was slim to none, so why not see what Scheelhaase can do. Right when Illinois punted, I, along with most Illini fans, knew the game was over.
However, the play that would irritate and anger me the most if I were Beckman was Denard Robinson’s 49-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
First off, a ball carrier should never be able to cut back in the heart of the defense like he did without being touched. Second, the effort on this play clearly showed that this team is giving up. On the snap, Glenn Foster ran too far up field and was double teamed by two Michigan linemen. I understand that rushing too far past the line of scrimmage happens, but if you watched Foster while Robinson was making his cut, he was standing still. If Foster had kept playing until the whistle blew then he would have been in position to make the play.
A starting defensive lineman on full scholarship cannot quit on a play regardless of the score or how the season is going. This is what is wrong with Illinois right now. Players are quitting and hoping someone else makes the tackle. I can guarantee that Urban Meyer and Nick Saban never have this issue with their players. Beckman needs to fix these issues now before Illinois digs itself a whole that is too deep to overcome.
Indiana visits Illinois on October 27th and I picture a blowout. With so many glaring problems with this roster I cannot see Illinois competing with any major college football team. My guess is Illinois 7 Indiana 38.
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