Illinois defense doesn’t waste time to watch film following 45-14 loss

The Illinois football team arrived back in Champaign around 6 a.m. Sunday morning with the 45-14 shellacking provided by Arizona State still fresh on its mind and the bad taste still fresh in its mouth.

The Illini didn’t want to take any breaks, especially an Illinois defense which prided itself on being one of the best in the country last season and stifling a Western Michigan offense in Week One that went on to score 52 points this past Saturday.

The "Illinois defense": was the first in the film room later that same Sunday morning, ignoring any effects from jet lag, watching film and nursing bruised egos after the game before it watched it again later in the day with the coaches.

“We’ve some great leadership and, yes, (the players) were hurting as well as the staff,” Illinois head coach Tim Beckman said. “So I’m sure that they were very willing to make a change.”

Arizona State’s up-tempo offense kept Illinois off-balanced and left Sun Devils’ receivers wide open for most of the game. Arizona State quarterbacks completed their first 14 pass attempts. Defensive back Justin Green said the tempo was faster than offenses in the Big Ten and something the Illini weren’t comfortable with. Beckman said the players committed eye violations — not staying with their man when Arizona State ran two or three players through the zones.

Miscommunication on defense also left receivers roaming by themselves, all unusual for the Illinois defense that has been the Illini’s biggest strength during the past 12 months.

“Even though that was a bad loss for us, we wanted to be together and talk about what went wrong and what we could’ve done to prevent those things from happening,” Green said. “We kind of wanted to just meet, get it over with and put it behind us so we could get ready for Charleston Southern.”

*Injury update: If Scheelhaase can play, he’ll play*

Beckman completely dismissed any notion that "injured quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase": would be held out of Saturday’s game against a weaker FCS (formerly Division-1AA) opponent like Charleston Southern.

“Why would you do that?” Beckman asked. “You have to get your team better. Our team needs to get better. So we’re going to do what we need to do to be successful and help ourselves achieve those things. We’re not to that level yet.”

Scheelhaase practiced Sunday night with the team and Beckman added that he could have even been an emergency quarterback on Saturday had he been forced to play due to injury. Before the game, Beckman said Scheelhaase was about 80 percent and that the decision to sit him out was “necessary for our football team and for Nathan.”

Beckman reiterated that the status for a starting quarterback on Saturday is wide open.

Defensive back Steve Hull reinjured his shoulder during the third quarter on Saturday and underwent MRIs on Monday to diagnose the severity. Beckman wouldn’t go into details, but said it was a different injury to the same shoulder that he injured initially on Nov. 26 against Minnesota. Beckman also added that defensive back Supo Sanni was doubtful for Saturday’s game.

*Helmet stickers*

Fans should also keep an eye out for which Illini have special helmet stickers on their helmets this Saturday. It’s another concept Beckman used at Toledo and Ohio State to keep in the practice of rewarding players. Sports Information Director Kent Brown said it’s the first time he can remember helmet stickers being used at Illinois since Mike White was head coach in the 1980s.

On the back of their helmets, each Illini has a sticker in the shape of the state of Illinois. The blue stickers are for production accomplishments on the field during games and the white stickers are given out each week for players who have done the things off the field as Beckman pleased. Players who abide by Illini time and are on time to class and the training room as Beckman said are rewarded for “not being on a list.”

*B1G struggles against Pac-12*

Illinois wasn’t alone in losing on the road to a Pac-12 opponent. The Illini were joined by Nebraska and Wisconsin as the Big Ten went 0-3 against Pac-12 teams during the weekend. The Cornhuskers were upset by UCLA, 36-30, and Wisconsin suffered a shocking 10-7 loss to Oregon State. Both Wisconsin and Nebraska dropped from the AP Top 25 after their losses. Beckman called the Big Ten’s performance disappointing, but added that he wasn’t really paying attention to other games and remained focused on Illinois.

_Jamal can be reached at and @JamalCollier._

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