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Want September 9, 2012

College football is, of course, the greatest sport on earth. The fanfare, the tailgating, the atmosphere on a crisp fall Saturday on campus – it really can’t be beat. And the game is superior too, at least to me. Athleticism, emotion, 22 guys with an individual job to do or it all breaks down. I’ll never get enough of it.

And the absolute best part, to me, is that there’s a want quotient to it all. If you want it, I mean really want it, you can go get it.

Here’s what I mean. Louisiana-Monroe was losing 28-7 to Arkansas today. They score to make it 28-14, and suddenly they want it. Every ULM lineman was lined up across from an Arkansas lineman who was a vastly superior athlete, but the 11 guys on Louisiana-Monroe wanted it more. Suddenly it’s 28-21. And then a 4th down touchdown to make it 28-28. And then a 4th down touchdown in overtime to beat #8 Arkansas. Want.

Look at the Rocky Harvey Michigan game. Down big in the second quarter, and suddenly we start to believe. That team wanted it, and they came all the way back to take it. In fact, Rocky Harvey might’ve wanted it too much, scoring the touchdown and giving Michigan a chance to possibly come back. Someone flipped a switch, and suddenly, after getting run over for a quarter and a half, we wanted it more.

Tonight, our defense was want-less. Uninspired. On their heels. Shell shocked. Todd Graham’s offense started moving the ball at will, and suddenly we look nothing like the defense of the last 15 games. Players haven’t really changed much, scheme is similar, but the defense didn’t really want it tonight. Poor tackling ruled the day. Arizona State barely had to deal with third down situations. We didn’t seem to want it at all.

It made me think about Vic Koenning, and Camp Rantoul 2011. If you’ve been reading this blog since then, you might remember a mini-podcast and an entire post about one moment of one practice. The defense clicked. Everyone started to understand. Practice (a full-hitting scrimmage) got intense. Every player on that defense wanted it. Which made the offense want to punch back. And it was a night and day difference from any scrimmage that week.

It’s a very difficult thing to teach. Vic Koenning, through his “we’re just not very good yet” ways, was great at it. He could teach want. This coaching staff… now has a task on their hands. Can they teach want? Can Tim Banks put this defense back together again? Can Tim Beckman rebuild the psyche of a team that just got destroyed tonight? The Big Ten appears to be headed for their worst season in a long, long time, so there’s hope. Some coach is going to rebuild his team after a devastating loss today and make a serious run in Big Ten play. Can it be us?

I want it to be.

+ While I didn’t see this game going that poorly (511 yards for Arizona State? REALLY?), the season is still in line with my expectations so far. Just went back to check – I had us at a 2-2 start, 3-4 start to the Big Ten leaving us 5-6 heading to Northwestern with a bowl on the line. We looked horrific tonight, which has me praying for 5-6 heading to Northwestern, but the majority of the Big Ten looked just as bad. Which means finding three wins before Northwestern is very possible. Heck, Wisconsin suddenly doesn’t have an offense.

So this will be our first real read on the Tim Beckman era. Can he regroup? In 2005, Zook’s first team started 2-0 and hung with Cal for a while. And then collapsed into one of our worst teams in recent memory. Can we avoid that? The team is probably on the airplane by now. And the plane is probably deathly quiet. Can he take that atmosphere and turn it around into a team that is ready to compete in the Big Ten? Or will it crumble?

+ Speaking of, probably the most disappointing thing about tonight was that these were two identical teams coming in. And I mean identical. Crumbled at the end of last season (they lost four in a row; we lost six), replaced recruiting-but-no-discipline head coaches, changed schemes, and are attempting to build a disciplined program.

And ASU is light years ahead of us after two games. It’s really hard for me to say my “it’s going to take time to install these schemes” when ASU arrived at this game in the same boat. Their installation appears months ahead of ours.

+ OK, this is getting depressing. How about some positives. Yes, positives. No, really – positives.

I was pleasantly surprised with our run blocking tonight. I knew the box would be stacked with Nathan out, so 231 yards rushing was actually very impressive. They knew we weren’t going to throw it, they sent everyone downhill on every snap, and we were still able to gain 231 yards on the ground. Had Nate been in there to keep the defense honest (OK, maybe just to keep the defense from telling boldfaced lies), there would have been even more room to run. That’s a real positive. Best run blocking since the Indiana game.

Josh Ferguson ran hard, too, as did Donovonn Young. Ferguson 7.2 yards per carry, Young 5.4. Those are really impressive numbers for a team that announced every series that they really weren’t going to pass. Granted, the ASU defense had dropped their want by that point, so it remains to be seen if our line can create such holes (and our tailbacks can grind out tough yards) against Penn State or Purdue in a tight ballgame. Those will be tight ballgames, right? Please tell me those will be tight ballgames.

+ Darius Millines looked seriously hurt on that one play – I’m guessing he’ll be out for an extended period of time (similar to his freshman and sophomore seasons). He’s clearly our top receiver in practice, but I’m afraid we just might never get to see it in games. He just can’t seem to stay healthy.

And STEVEHULL spent 9 months rehabbing a shoulder… and then left the game with what appeared to be a fairly serious shoulder injury. Pure speculation, but I’m guessing he’ll be shut down for the season.

Also, Miles Osei seemed to hurt his ankle late in the second quarter, which is why we didn’t see him in the second half, I’m guessing. So if he’s out and Nate can’t go next week, it’s O’Toole and Chase Haslett getting ready for Charleston Southern. Man, if there was ever a time to play an FCS school that has lost 14 games in a row, it’s this week. Banged up team with a shattered psyche. We need to put up 50 points and snap ourselves out of it. Because Louisiana Tech scored 56 points on Houston today.

+ I just can’t understand that defensive performance. It felt like we bit on everything they tried to get us to bite on. Put a man in motion to draw the safety away, send two receivers on immediate slants to clear the area, throw swing pass to empty zone hoping the outside corner bites on the in routes. Worked. Worked again. Hey it worked again. Let’s try it again – yep, worked. And again.

While four fourth downs for Arizona State is crazy, only seven third downs is absolutely stunning. I would have bet thousands against a stat like that. They got a first down on first or second down TWENTY THREE TIMES. Seriously think about that for a second. Twenty three times. Last week, Western Michigan pulled that off six times.

That pushes this defensive performance past Michigan 2010 and makes it our worst defensive performance since… Fresno State 2009? Awful. Just awful awful awful. We give up 10 catches for 131 yards to a junior tight end who came into the game with eight career catches.

+ Louisiana Tech is a really big game in two weeks. Right now, I’m thinking LaTech will be favored. Especially if Nate is still out. It might be our toughest home game. They put up 600 yards of offense on Houston today, and with the way our defense played tonight, I can’t see us holding them under 40. Can we win a shootout? I don’t think we’re there yet.

Which takes us back to Beckman’s task. How is he at putting Humpty back together again? Will we falter against LaTech and Penn State, pushing the season to the brink before October hits? Or can we regroup in our gimme game, come out much better prepared for Louisiana Tech’s offense than we were tonight, and then take down Penn State for a 4-1 start?

Yeah, I don’t think so either. Not unless we learn to want it.

PittsburghNellie September 9th, 2012

Vicky come back
You can coach Illini D
Tim Banks sucks
And I just can’t live without you.

illiniranger September 9th, 2012

offense played a lot better, the defense was badly outschemed. I don’t want to make an excuse, but here goes… Todd Graham’s Tulsa teams in the late aughts were some of the best offensive teams in the history of college football. the guy may be shady as hell, but he can coach. i think it is still way to early to draw sweeping conclusions about our coaching staff. the loss was certainly a gut punch and disappointing.
Tim Beckman’s biggest challenge is going to be turning around the attitude of our program. 20+ years of really bad coaching isn’t easy to shakeoff. i think we can, but we are still really, really far away.

Harry Lime September 9th, 2012

Robert you touched on the most disappointing aspect of the loss-the fact that this was a very similar team to us and they absolutely landed on their feet with the coaching change while we’re still figuring it out. But I’m confident that we will. It may not be this year or next year, but we’ll get there.

whisox1 September 9th, 2012

1. Remember that Minn. game last year? Recall Ohio State last year when they ran the ball down our throats? Last night’s defense looked like that.

2. Why the Steve Hull love? To me, the problem is the fact he is your starter says a lot about the team’s talent level in the secondary.

3. The O Line pass blocking, plus no Nate equals big trouble…

gusher September 9th, 2012

This game raises real concerns about whether or not we hired the right guy.

Defense was bad. Sure, VK was a genius, but there’s enough talent on defense (I think we’ll look back at a defense that had 6 or more NFLers getting minutes) that it shouldn’t be hard to prevent what happened last night. The concern here is that defense is supposed to be something Beckman knows. Even if he’s not the guy implementing it, he’s supposed to know when a defense is lousy well ahead of getting pummeled.

Special teams was Zookian. Well, I guess we didn’t drop any punts, but aside from that it was terrible. ASU player fields a kickoff 9 yards deep and runs it out past the 30. Josh Ferguson almost downs it at the 1…twice. Runs it out to the 15. Punter kept kicking it out of bounds about 30 yards downfield.

Offense wasn’t just terrible, it was defeatist. Down by 21, with 3+ minutes and all 3 timeouts remaining, we run the ball so we can hurry up and get to the locker room at halftime. We threw the ball just as much as ASU. If you don’t have the confidence to throw, when 1) it’s the only shot you have at winning and 2) the opponent puts 8 in the box on nearly every down, then you’re telling every other opponent on the schedule not to bother defending the pass. Embarrassing playcalling. That said, I was similarly impressed with the run game. Butkus gets a B+ for turning that unit around in one week. Everyone else, F-.

Oh, and about those timeouts–Beckman put them in his pocket at halftime, even though we suffered through at least a couple of delay of game penalties in the first half. Zookian.

chief23 September 9th, 2012

Lets not sugarcoat this. Play calling was atrocious. Defense was 2005 bad. Made ASU look like Alabama. Talent level isn’t THAT dramatic on these rosters and they look light years ahead of where we are now. They also had a coaching change, new schemes ect so I’m already getting tired of reading that excuse. This defense is senior laden, has several NFL players on it and this is the performance? Totally unacceptable, you only get 12 games; fans will be jumping off the bandwagon by the thousands now. I understand that Nate was out, but that’s not the reason we lost the game. This team was not prepared for this game and it’s extremely frustrating given that I’ve been watching this same garbage for years. Momentum is a big part of building a program and this game pretty much killed it for a couple months barring a miracle. I really hope Beckman is pissed off, because I am. Yea yea we all need to have patience, I get it and all is not lost…but 20 years of this gets really old. It’s early but what scares me is that we have more talent now than we will have in the next two years, if Beckman can’t win this year that’s a bad sign.

kgwasmyfavorite13 September 9th, 2012

The unpreparedness was stunning. For all the bravado and coach-speak that I have heard (and bought into) from TB over the last 8 months, this was a sign of pure ineptness. A good coach gets his players to compete, even when the playing field is stacked against you. This field wasn’t. They are not that much better physically than we are…yet, we didn’t compete. Why do I get the feeling we will be hiring the HC of a (yet to be determined) MAC school again in 3 years. Just pitiful…

ATOillini September 9th, 2012

Could not sleep last night going over all the things I wanted to type this morning, and then read your post plus the first 7 comments to see it’s already been all covered. Everyone saw the same things and feels generally the same way. Only an “I told you so” Joe John post is absent at this point.
“Swing pass to empty zone”……..Seriously, did we EVER have coverage within 7 yards of the guy catching the ball? Time and time and time again. Meanwhile virtually every pass attempt we make seems to be an adventure in tension. Nothing seems to be a simple pitch and catch. Nothing. Ever.
Totally agree with Gusher. When we ran the clock out at the end of the first half it just made me sick (even though it may have prevented them from scoring again).
Could continue to rehash all that’s already been said here, but I’ll just shut up and enjoy this sunny Sunday.

GrogsBBQPepperoni September 9th, 2012

Maybe our 2013 defense that we’re so worried about has arrived early. Again, the Jekyll and Hyde nature of this team is baffling. Let’s admit it, they could have put up 50 points easily considering the 2 fumbles inside the 10 that we recovered and some potential mercy for us toward the end of the game (I’m assuming – I turned it off). That team was brimming with confidence and we looked pathetic (save for energetic Josh Ferguson who was ready to play).
Get to work, Timmy. You’ve got quite the task to fix this ship that is currently taking on water at an alarming rate.

chief23 September 9th, 2012

This reminds me an awful lot of the Missouri game in 2009 (only worse). Why do we always look unprepared in these type of games? I really thought Beckman would change the culture of the program but so far it actually looks much worse. Man am I tired about having to worry about games like LaTech.

Joe John September 9th, 2012

For the first time in several years, the Illini looked out-athleted last night. If you get that thoroughly beaten by a team that isnt even very good (and actually made mistakes of their own as they left 14 points on the board)….something is very very wrong.

The defensive line got no push at all. The secondary was lost. Tackling was horrible. Then you just guy running wide open which could be attributed to scheme.

The offense was as expected…awful. The offensive line cant block…there’s no WR safety blanket like Jenkins of last year…the running backs ran hard but once you get into Big 10 they wont be able to run up the middle like last night.

I’m having a difficult time envisioning more than 5 wins…the 5 wins was assuming the defense would keep games close and Illinois offense wouldnt need to do much…but if this defense is going to go back to Mallory levels…forget about it.

illinibacker September 9th, 2012

Yeah Missouri 2009 is about right for that game last night. About 5 minutes into that game I was so pissed off that I bothered to make the trip down there for it. Illinois played just about the same last night.
I hate to say it but that was really a Zookian performance last night.
I’m not jumping ship yet, but the level of play is a flashing danger sign if there ever was one. I like the way Beckman is recruiting, but if the team plays the rest of the season like that, recruiting will fall apart and with graduation and attrition we will be locked into mediocrity or worse for years to come.

lowellhamilton September 9th, 2012

I’m most alarmed that ASU is not even close to the best team UI will see this year. Well that and suddenly being terrified of getting blown out by Louisiana Tech.

I’m fine to give Beckman some time though. I don’t think anyone had tremendously high expectations for this team. Most of the people who post on here landed in the 6-6 or worse camp.

Salt Life September 9th, 2012

That was just tough to watch. ASU made the Illini defense look worse than pedestrian. Illini’s most experienced defense in years with mostly senior starters, mostly same defense that beat ASU last year and finished among top defenses in country under Koenning looked downright atrocious. Both teams have new coaches but ASU’s turned their team around while Illinois’ coaches don’t appear to be better than last year’s. Last year it took the team 6 games to implode, this year it happened in the second game. Very few bright spots on a poor performing offense as well. Play calling was atrocious and both Osei and O’Toole looked like deer caught in headlights. ASU has 2 great QB’s to Illinois 0. ASU toyed with Illinois all night and clearly benefited more from their coaching change than did Illinois with theirs. ASU also has a brand new coaching staff . . which had the Illinois coaches outcoached and exposed. Illinois players unprepared, unmotivated, listless and plainly poorly coached.

Scheelhaase wouldn’t have won this game for Illinois. ASU defense would have still shut down Illinois’ dull offense and Illinois’ defense would still have been exposed by ASU explosive offense. Difference in this game was coaching. Both teams have brand new coaches and mostly same players. What a difference a year and new coaching makes. ASU looked like it’s ready to become a major player and force again on the national D-1 scene while Illinois looks like it has become a mediocre MAC team. Illini were absolutely obliterated in just their 2nd game and Nate would not have changed that had he played.

Kokomo Illini September 9th, 2012

Last night we were the patsy and played lke it (except for a few running plays by Ferguson and Young and a couple of passes here and there). We were playing in slow motion compared to ASU, especially on defense. If our “NFL caliber” defensive guys keep playing this way, the NFL won’t have anything to do with them.

This reminded me of the 2009 Missouri game as well, being inept from the start of the game, with the “deer in the headlights” look, as showed in Osei’s and O’Toole’s faces during the first half.

Tim Beckman and assistants: you did not have this team ready to play this game. If we don’t beat Charleston Southern by at least 30 points, we won’t be ready for Louisiana Tech, and the Big Ten games thereafter.

Nate: heal quickly.

Long live the Chief.

illinibacker September 9th, 2012

While Illinois DID look like horse manure, certainly unprepared with a lack of energy… I’m open to the idea that ASU simply does have superior athletes and is actually a pretty decent football team. I wouldn’t be surprised if they finish in the top 4 of the Pac10.
I can’t get over how much better their athletes and skill players looked than ours. I don’t think that was a total illusion. I also remember Brock Huard saying that Graham was very happy with the talent level he stepped into and thought it was what he needed to win from the beginning. Could have been a coaches tale being sold to the media guy, but by the way they played I can buy it. Illinois certainly did them a lot of favors, but I can’t see IL winning 2 games if they played 10… even with Nate.

illiniranger September 10th, 2012

one of the things i don’t like about the no huddle spread is that people do it to just sort of do it.
i think there is a huge contrast between ASU’s version of the spread and ours. They run a true no huddle spread; almost no adjustments at the line of scrimmage, line up, snap the ball, run the play, rinse, repeat. Our version of the no huddle spread, and the one i think you see much, much more of at the college and high school level looks more like: line up, ok, now check to the sideline, ok, now adjust your play call, ok, now look back to the sideline, ok now call an audible, ok, now snap the ball and get hit for a 3 yard loss as your running back goes east/west instead of north/south. if you are going to do that you might as well just huddle.
that said, we have two OC’s that have never done this before and Todd Graham had some of the best offenses in college football history when he was the head coach at Tulsa. Graham, and by extension the team he coaches, has a competitive advantage running the no huddle spread. i wouldn’t be surprised at all if they finish 3rd or 4th in the PAC-12 this year.
I am pretty sure we’ll get better. I think this is probably the low point for our football team this year. The good news is, we’ll get to regroup against Charleston Southern. the LA Tech game is looming large.

TC80 September 10th, 2012

Wow, that didn’t take long for nearly everyone to turn on Beckman. We looked like absolute crap on Saturday, but I’m not bailing just yet. Remember how weak the B1G is this year – we can absolutely be competitive if we just play a little better. Remember how Robert keeps talking about how installing a new coach/system can be ugly – well hopefully we just saw the ugliest part of the transition. We really can’t play any worse than that, especially on D. I simply can’t believe how few 3rd downs ASU faced.

I’m not convinced that we’ll lose both La Tech and Penn St. I bet we split those games, which would put us at 3-2 heading to Wiscy. That’d give us a reasonable shot at a bowl and what I’d call a successful season.

I-L-L September 10th, 2012

I don’t understand everyone’s “surprise” about what happened in the desert on Saturday night. Did anything happen that we really didn’t see coming? Graham is an offensive genius and quiet frankly has the perfect players to run it. We already knew we didnt have great depth on defense, so we were doomed there, the scheme wasn’t great but we are limited due to depth. The offensive struggles we knew were going to happen without Nate back there.

I want to go back to Roberts ‘State of the Union’ post. Let’s stop the comparisons to Zook and Turner, let’s remember this was Beckmans 2nd game, so yes he is STILL implementing his system. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Let’s remember that yes we have talent on defense but no one to back them up. Your only strong as your weakest link, that’s not just a cliche.

Let’s see what Beckman is able to do under more resonable circumstances, when he has his starting quarterback compared to guys with next to zero experience. Let’s not be prisoners of the moment and think the sky is falling, it’s this attitude that makes it hard to get excited about this program. Remember it’s only the 2nd game of Operation New Era.

I-L-L September 10th, 2012

Also the rest of the B1G looked pretty bad as well, Wisconsin was almost shut out by Oregon St

rinnersan September 10th, 2012

Illini historically get beat out west. Redbraska lost to UCLA team we beat in bowl. Let’s not panic. Defense may have started reading their press clippings–everyone was pretty busy telling them how good they were last week. This whipping may be just what we needed to get our minds right for the rest of the schedule. Remember they are college kids, performance range is wide and erratic. Key is how well TB gets them back on track.

GrogsBBQPepperoni September 10th, 2012

I agree, usually the PAC “10″ just cleans our clock for some reason – especially when we go out there. Happened in ’84 Rose Bowl when we were really good, happened again in the ’08 Rose Bowl. I even remember a Washington State team beating us when we were pretty good back in the 90s. And we had a disaster of a game against I think Oregon in the mid to late 90s.
The phrase “Go west, young man” was certainly not meant for Illini ears.

Duce20 September 10th, 2012

Can we knock it off with the LA Tech love? They beat Houston by a TD, the same Houston team that got beat by Texas ST. the week before and fired their OC this week and Houston still hung 49 on LA Tech. Oh they scored 13 against mighty Texas ST. And another point, Houston has been allergic to tackling for 20 years. It was a bad night, its over move on.