A familiar scene played out Saturday at Memorial Stadium: Illinois put a bunch of points on the scoreboard but surrendered many more. The 60-35 score indicated a blowout, but the game was closer than the box score would lead one to believe. A pair of 50-yard runs late in the game by Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde put the game out of reach.
At his weekly news conference Monday, head coach Tim Beckman said he thought his defense may have been focused too much on getting a turnover near the end of the game, and not enough on stopping the Buckeyes short of the first down marker.
“The last two plays that they scored on us, we were trying to do too much,” Beckman said. “They see something and instead of staying in their gap, they try and overmatch the play.”
The big plays had been the difference between a close game and a blowout. The Illini saw the same thing play out against Indiana a week prior.
“You can’t gamble when you’re playing that type of caliber offense,” defensive coordinator Tim Banks said of Ohio State. “It’s always hard to find (positives) when you lose. But the reality is that we did some really good things. But when you’re playing a team like that, you can’t give them cheap ones and unfortunately we gave them too many cheap ones.”
Illinois favored over Purdue
Though it means nothing on the field, the Illini are favored over Purdue by seven points this weekend. Illinois hasn’t been favored in a Big Ten game all season.
While Beckman doesn’t care much about point spreads, he did like to see that people are noticing improvement in his program.
“We are competitive,” Beckman said. “It comes down to winning and losing, but this football team has become competitive, and they’re competitive in everything they do. It’s not just about first downs and touchdowns — it’s about everything they do.”
Saturday’s match up with the Boilermakers puts Beckman against a former colleague of his. Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell coached with Beckman when both were at Ohio State for the 2005 and 2006 seasons under head coach Jim Tressel.
Hazell coached wide receivers while Beckman coached defensive backs, so the two had plenty of time to interact with each other every day.
The battle of Big Ten bottom-feeders this weekend will also be the battle for the Purdue Cannon, which Illinois has won only once out of the last eight meetings between the two schools.
Illini football offering tornado relief
With tornados ravaging much of Illinois on Sunday, Beckman extended his thoughts and prayers to everyone affected. He said some of his players want to make the short trip north to Gifford, Ill., to assist in the tornado relief and clean up effort.
“If we are able to help in any way, shape or form, this football team is very willing to do that,” Beckman said. “Our best goes out to that area and to anybody that was involved with that tornado.”
Some of the players plan to visit the area Tuesday morning.
Sean can be reached at email@example.com and @sean_hammond.