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You Can’t Make Me Quit November 10, 2012

Since I’m apparently all about letting everyone know my whereabouts this weekend, allow me to set the scene for you. I sat in the press box for this game. This picture is my current view. Everything about that field excites me. This stadium excites me. We’ve been over this before – this is home to me.

Over my left shoulder is a television. On that television is the coach I wanted after Ron Zook was fired: Kevin Sumlin. His Aggies lead #1 Alabama on the road 29-24 with 40 seconds left.

During our coaching search, There were rumors that we were in negotiations with Sumlin. Some radio show in Florida (with no connection to Illinois) ran with the story that he’d be our next coach. John Supinie tweeted that sources were reporting that a “deal was close”.

But it never happened. And now Sumlin is at Texas A&M (wouldn’t you be?). And Alabama just jumped offsides, which means A&M can now run out the clock. My goodness.

Over my right shoulder a few minutes ago was the end of the Penn State/Nebraska game. A hard fought game between two well-coached teams. Nebraska pulled away at the end. The scene in Lincoln is amazing – thousands of rabid fans going nuts as their team moves towards a possible Big Ten title.

And Penn State – despite everything they’ve been through – they’re still right there. They’re certain to dip once these recruiting restrictions start, but Bill O’Brien looks like the coach who will have them back sooner rather than later.

And then I stare straight ahead at an empty Memorial Stadium. We lost. Again. Shot ourselves in the foot six times. Again. We’re now on a 12 game Big Ten losing streak with no real end in sight. Purdue knocked off Iowa today – they’ll beat us. No chance we win at Northwestern (NO CHANCE WE WIN AT NORTHWESTERN!!). And then next year’s Big Ten schedule starts Nebraska – Wisconsin – Michigan State – Penn State. 18 straight Big Ten losses looks like a lock at this point. Man oh man oh man.

So why does this field excite me? Why do I look at this stadium under the lights and still dream of a crazy, rocking night game environment like the 2000 Michigan game? Why can’t I quit this?

I’ll let Kanye take that one.

Why everything that’s supposed to bad make me feel so good
Everything they told me not to is exactly what I would
Man I tried to stop man I tried the best I could

I’ll keep saying it if I have to keep saying it: I’m not going anywhere. This season feels like one big “well will the fans stick around if we do THIS?”, and I feel the need to keep saying “yes”. Try to make me quit, Illini Football. You won’t. I’m. Not. Going. Anywhere.

(But could you maybe please stop trying to make me quit?)

+ I don’t think I’ve ever evaluated a football team this way, but my biggest issue with the play calling today was… second down play calls. What?

I have the benefit of the play-by-play sheet with me. Let’s look it up together. Here’s our second down plays…

2nd and 10 at the Minnesota 26… Scheelhaase run up the middle for 2 yards. It was after an incomplete pass, and I remember being puzzled by the play call (especially after Donovonn looked great on the first run).

2nd and goal at the Minnesota 2… Donovonn Young rush for no gain. I had no problems with that play call – punch it in with your best tailback.

2nd and 10 at the Illinois 22… Jon Davis rush for 3 yards. I like being committed to the run, but I remember wanting a pass there.

2nd and 12 at the Minnesota 33… Scheelhaase run for 5 yards. Trying to get in field goal range, I don’t like that call on second and long.

2nd and 23 at the Illinois 18… Scheelhaase rush for 5 yards. I think this one was a scramble, but still.

2nd and 1 from the Minnesota 45… Scheelhaase rush for 7 yards. OK, solid, although I still love the home run shot on second and 1.

2nd and 4 from the Minnesota 32… Ayoola rush for no gain. Big play there, as the sack on the next play knocked us out of field goal range.

2nd and 2 from the Illinois 33… Young rush for no gain. There it is again – second and short and no gain.

2nd and 8 from the Illinois 8… Ferguson rush for loss of 1 yard. Seeing a theme here?

2nd and 8 from the Illinois 31… Penalty Minnesota. YAY! Our best second down call of the game.

2nd and 19 from the Illinois 26… Screen pass to Young for a loss of 3 yards. My mom knew we were going to go with a screen pass there.

2nd and 1 from the Illinois 41… Scheelhaase 4 yard gain. OK. This is our 4th quarter drive attempting to tie it.

2nd and 4 from the Minnesota 49… Scheelhaase 7 yard gain. Good.

2nd and 5 from the Minnesota 37… Davis rush for 2 yards. Drive killer there. It worked with Davis on first down, so we lined up and tried it again. They learned.

2nd and 1 from the Illinois 29… Davis rush for no gain. This set up the Scheelhaase fumble on the sneak. WHY CAN’T WE GET ANY POSITIVE YARDAGE ON SECOND DOWN??

On our final drive we had three second down plays. One was a spike, and the other two were incomplete passes.

WHY CAN’T WE GET ANY POSITIVE YARDAGE ON SECOND DOWN?? So yes, going through this confirms what I remember from the game. We had opportunities to move the ball today. Several second and short plays. And we couldn’t do anything on second down. Which set up third down plays, and there everyone knows of our struggles.

On third down, the opposing coaches kind of have you cornered a bit. They know the main point of your play call will be to gain that first down marker. On second down, you have a little more freedom. Will they run? Pass? Go for the first down? Throw deep? Throw short?

We can’t execute on second down, and we put ourselves behind the eight ball because of it. I think that’s the first time I’ve ever said that about an Illini team.

+ Toughest play of the game was probably Nate missing Jon Davis for a touchdown in the first quarter. Right after the flea flicker, we split out Hugh Thornton to wide receiver (what?) and run some play where Davis is uncovered at the five. And Nate sailed the pass. Hit that, and maybe we get on a little roll. But we didn’t hit that. And we didn’t score.

+ They just handed me a sheet of quotes. Here’s what Nate had to say about the second fumble:

“Coach Beatty tells me all the time don’t reach the ball out in those situations. I think it comes down to just me trying to do too much, not doing my job. You realize that it’s third down and they get a stop there. I guess that’s the instinct that comes out when you get stopped on 3rd-and-1: you want to do what you can to get the first down. You’ve got to do your job. You’ve got to do what is expected from you and I didn’t do that. It’s 100% my fault.”

I feel for the kid, but then I don’t. He’s a third year junior starter. He simply cannot do that. Cost us any chance at a comeback.

+ These televisions are now showing Mississippi State/LSU and Kansas State/TCU (wait, does K Freaking State go to #1 if they win this?)

Dan Mullen has rebuilt Mississippi State and they’re competing hard against LSU. Gary Patterson built TCU from nothing. Bill Snyder built K-State, twice, from nothing. In Manhattan, Kansas!

It can be done. It will be done. I’m not going anywhere until it does. Consider me on an intellectual hunger strike. I’m thinking about doing one of those “I’m staying up here on this billboard until we win a game” stunts. If I have to prove I won’t quit no matter what Illinois Football does to me, I will. I’m going to be here when we clinch a Big Ten title game. I won’t quit.

(And if it happens after I die, please spread my ashes in the south endzone. Right about at the spot where Walter Young had clear possession of the ball in overtime. And don’t worry about staining the endzone – I’ll just look like those little pebbles in the turf at that point.)

I’m not going anywhere, Illinois Football. You can’t make me quit. I’ve just doubled down for the 43rd time. Not even another “offensive lineman catches a deflected two point conversion and falls over the goal line” could make me quit. Gimme your best shot. I can take it.

(But could you maybe please stop giving me your best shot?)

kgwasmyfavorite13 November 10th, 2012

Once again, Robert, you posted the thoughts right out of my head. I’m a grown man (I’m 40! Sorry couldn’t resist) and yet here I am at almost 10 PM EST reading posts on several message boards, brooding, and wanting so badly to stay connected to an absolute mockery of a football program. They can’t make me go away either (much to my wife’s dismay). I still believe that there is a man out there who can take us to the promised land and not land us on any kind of probation. I don’t think TB is that man. But, I am willing to hang on through these lean years, including (assuredly) another firing and yet another building from the ground up process. I’m all in…and always will be.

illinitrueblue November 10th, 2012


I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but this is the worst Illinois FB team in the last 50 years. The absolute worst!

I watched the awful Moeller teams, and the worst of the Tepper and Valek and Turner and Zook teams and never have I seen such a dreadful bunch.

And the worst part? The coaching is the worst imagible.

We are in Indiana territory and going to be there for the foreseeable future.

Joe John November 10th, 2012

Righteous indignation? I thought that was after the Penn State game? I really want to see Robert let loose and slam Beckman and say this is unacceptable, but doubtful he’ll ever get there.

Boneyard Surfer November 10th, 2012

Maybe this is just a bad dream I remember, but back in the Turner years, or was it Tepper?, didn’t we go a long time without scoring a touchdown? Like multiple games, well into double digits WRT quarters. When we finally scored a touchdown, it felt like winning the Rose Bowl.

That’s where we are again. Virtually no offensive play Illinois runs actually achieves the desired result. The runner can’t find a hole, the pocket collapses in one second, the pass is air mailed over the receiver, etc.

NS is just Juice 2.0. A reasonably skilled HS athlete who shows early promise and then flat lines, or even regresses. Is it because they were overrated as recruits and simply don’t have what it takes to move to the next level, or is the coaching so deficient that progression is stunted?

It got to the point that I couldn’t wait for Juice to graduate, and I’m pretty much there WRT NS as well.

uiucfan1 November 10th, 2012

Do I think Beckman is cut out for a job of this calibur? No – however, for those calling for his head – please remember, we will still be buying Zook out for the next 2 years (right?) so you don’t want to also be buying Beckman out…

MT his a HR with the basketball hire, IMO,… lets give Beckman his 3 years and see how he does.

I think the real problem is the offensive play calling and getting the team motivated to play in games.

I don’t put my thoughts to print, like Robert, but i’ve been thinking for a long time that we need more than just the shotgun formation in our offensive sets…i can almost call the plays from the stands…when Nathan went under center on the fumble play, you knew it was a QB sneak – we just don’t line up like that unless otherwise. and on 2nd and 3rd and goal from the 1 – when you snap the ball to the shotgun, your already terrible o-line has to block an extra second or 2 to spring your back through….those gaps close quickly at the GL – just run a regular power I sometimes, PLEASE!

I believed Nate needed a system that catered more to his ability – yet i still see that SLOW developing read option 20+ times per game….I’d much rather the Juice Williams option where Nate and Donnovan will run parallel and Nate reads run or pitch…also, Nate is not even close to accurate. He underthrew Spencer Harris on the flea flicker (would have been a TD) then he overthrew Davis on the sure TD a play later… he wants to run first, he won’t throw the ball out of bounds….today, there was a play – 2nd and 21 or 3rd and 21 something like that, and the line actually gave Nate time to pass – but instead of trying something downfield, he dumps off a pass to Donnovan 8 yards up the field…just as Lankford (who can’t catch) was beating his guy 15 yards more downfield.

I’m still here – but geez its depressing :(

travelmaster November 11th, 2012

Pathetic. Why did coach Beckman hire not one but two coaches to call offensive plays who had ZERO prior experience doing it? That shows very poor judgement.
It surely has shown in the now seven straight losses that their calls are predictable and sometimes clueless.
Someone please pass along these suggestions to Mr. Thomas the AD;
Bring in Bobby Petrino as head coach at whatever price needed. He could even along his brother to coach our receivers again and show coach Gonzo out the door asap. Bring back coach Vic to return our defense to respectability again and I’m sure we would see immediate and consistant improvement. I can dream can’t I?

EricCLoy November 11th, 2012

You should have come over and said hello!

GrogsBBQPepperoni November 11th, 2012

Wow, you’re certifiable, Robert. I grew up on Illinois athletics. Dad went there, older sister went there. I absolutely loved going down for the occasional game (my favorite memory before I attended was at the crazy comeback against Indiana in ’89 or whenever that was). I tried to watch yesterday but then decided washing my car was more enjoyable.
But I can’t ever remember an Illini team that was so inept at passing (at least when NS is in). It’s completely laughable. The flea-flicker was so underthrown that it was amazing it wasn’t picked. And then, as you mentioned, the next play NS overthrows a sure wide-open TD. After that it was our typical bubble screens and 3 yard pass plays. Purdue will have their way with us. Just like everyone else has. And will for the next year or two at least.
It’s hoops season (and ha! – Purdue just lost to Bucknell in their home opener!).

illiniranger November 11th, 2012

this is really bad. we are a really bad team. i don’t remember the ’97 team (before B1G network) and i don’t remember the 2005 team (i was in Iraq) but this can’t possibly be any better than them. Didn’t the ’03 team not win a game as well? i was at West Point and didn’t really see them play. Didn’t we lose to San Jose State that year – at home? And i remember some truly dreadful Lou Tepper teams.
I’m not sure we are that bad, but we are pretty bad.
BTW, if you want to talk about an awful, awful team the 2003 West Point team has to be the worst in history. 0-13. Did not play a single competitive game other than their LOSS to Holy Cross. That’s right. Army lost to Holy Cross at home my Senior year.

bart34 November 11th, 2012

My Dad did not go to college, he was a blue collar worker, but he was/is a die hard Illini fan. He is 88 and I truly hope he gets to see one more win. . .

As for me, I did not attend Illinois, but I will forever be right there with you. I will bleed orange and blue till the day I die and watch every grueling minute of every loss along they way.

Just feel that if we could just stop beating ourselves, we would have a chance in a few games – Indy, Minny and Purdue. But it doesn’t look like that is going to happen. After a while loosing becomes a mindset and subconsciously you are looking for “Ok what going to happen this game to cause the roof to fall in” an d before you know it you can’t even beat the sisters of the poor.

It may be 2014 before we see another win. Dad will be 90.

Neale Stoner November 11th, 2012

We may contaminate all that we touch. Vic K gave up 68 points yesterday.

bkenny November 11th, 2012

Remember when Robert posted when you have goal to go on the one, DON’T SNAP IT FROM THE SIX? We did that again yesterday too, had to settle for the FG, and it went downhill from there.

Eugene November 11th, 2012

I completely agree Robert. I’ve been a fan since my childhood and don’t plan on jumping ship now. My brother has been a roaming gnome of favorite teams, but I remain true to the Orange and Blue. There have been worse Illini teams, but not many. As for seeing this through with TB as the head coach, I will. Yes, play calling has been an issue on both sides. It will be interesting to see how many assistants are changed after the season.
The biggest spot for hope on the horizon is next fall’s recruiting class. Currently ranked as 4th best in B1G. The next task is stacking a second class of that caliber or higher on top of it. Then we, as a fan base, will be able to determine if this coaching staff can really coach.

rg4 November 11th, 2012

Even accepting the very questionable premise that TB was handed a markedly less talented team than every major college football authority gave us credit for, how will this team ever compete in the years that our recruiting is below average?

Surely, TB will have trouble with recruiting some years more than others (just like every single college football team). In such years, how do the TB defenders expect those teams to compete and not decimate recruiting even further through poor on-field performances? Put another way, if this guy can never win by coaching players up in down years and needs year after year of very solid recruiting classes to be even remotely competitive, he is putting the margin for error at a school like Illinois impossibly high and unsustainable.

chief23 November 11th, 2012

It’s not just a talent issue. This team can’t even do the little things right, it’s like watching a high school team on offense, I’ve watched a couple MAC games where they look light years ahead of us on offense, you’re telling me they just recruited better than Illini, c’mon now. Beckman has lost this team.

chilliniguy November 11th, 2012

Sometimes I wish I could quit them, but I don’t know how.