CHAMPAIGN — After losing to Wisconsin in a game that was never all that close, it would have been easy for Illini coaches and players to hang their heads. No one would have faulted this Illinois team for feeling deflated Saturday night and letting those emotions get the best of them.
There was not a soul in orange, however, that let the 56-32 loss get them down.
“I didn’t see anyone quitting. I thought the kids played hard,” head coach Tim Beckman said after the loss. “We have to remember this is halfway through the season. We’re 3-3, we have six B1G games left, and it’s like going in to halftime 0-0 ... This team at least fights. They’ll fight to the end.”
To a person, the response from the Illini was an echo of the man in charge. Though the tone in the voice of the players hinted at sadness, it was made clear that any disappointment was based on the result — not the effort.
“What I like is that we scored points and the kids are dissatisfied. We have to keep building on that,” offensive coordinator Bill Cubit said. “It’s not good enough, and we’re never going to be satisfied. We have got to win.”
The Illini piled up 319 yards and 32 points on a Wisconsin team that just last week allowed 241 yards and six points to a Northwestern team ranked No. 19 in the country. Likewise, though allowing 56 points could be a downer, the Illini allowed less total offense than the Wildcats did (478 vs. 527).
For defensive coordinator Tim Banks, the problems are easy to identify because they are fundamentals. He makes no claims to have any magical coaching abilities to get his team to make every play, but he vowed not to give up on any of his players.
In the same vain, senior linebacker Jonathan Brown vowed to keep giving his all to making the Illini defense as successful as possible.
“Executing tackles is something we just have to get better at,” he said. “We’re not going to quit. We’ll never be a team that quits. We’re going to play until the last snap of the last game.”
And the Illini are not going to seek anything different from any opponent than what they saw from Wisconsin.
“Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. No one will care who we lost to,” quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase said. “Halfway through the season you’re no longer a young team ... so all that matters is the next game. We have to step up to the challenge.”