Illini not defeated by dismal record

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Illini not defeated by dismal record

CHAMPAIGN After seeing their chances of making a third straight bowl game disappear with a 30-point loss to Ohio State on Saturday, the Illini (2-7, 0-5) have every right to be disappointed. In fact, the Illinois coaches and players could be forgiven for having a lackluster attitude, or a general reluctance to talk about their struggles this season.But thats not how Tim Beckmans team operates.
Instead of letting their plight dictate their demeanor, each member of the Illinois football team gathered for Mondays press conference exhibited a positive attitude and an eagerness to show improvement before the end of the season. Improvement was key for Beckman, the Illinois coach, and he made no excuses for his teams mistakes.
When you play undefeated teams, you cant not score when you get the opportunity in the red zone. You have to do more than just kick field goals and you have to play 60 minutes of football, he said. I was proud of the way our kids continued to play with OSU but it wasnt good enough.
Beckman went on to say it was incumbent on his team to show growth in these last three games of the season and learn from their mistakes. Though the opportunity to compete in a bowl game is no longer an option for Illinois, there is still the opportunity to end the season on a positive note.
For quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, not being able to play for a bowl berth means focusing on what he says should be a daily goal for all Illini.
Obviously we didnt reach our goals, but in a sense this should refocus us on what should be our goal every day: just going out and getting better performing to the best of our abilities, he said. We still can end the season on a positive note. We still can go out and win some games.
This Saturday the Illini get a chance to pick up a win with a return to Champaign for a Dads Day contest with Minnesota (5-4, 1-4). The Golden Gophers started the season with a flurry of wins but have cooled down since starting Big Ten play, beating only a winless Purdue team in five conference games.
Beckman has experience against Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill from their time as Mid-American Conference coaches (Beckman at Toledo and Kill at Northern Illinois). He described the Gophers as a typical Jerry Kill team: the kind of team that fights for everything and earns every success they have.
You see them get better and better each week. Theyre very competitive, Beckman said. Their defense is very aggressive and offensively theyre playing with a quarterback Philip Nelson that has taken over for them.
Senior defensive back Ashante Williams, who returned a fumble 77 yards for a touchdown in the OSU game, said Minnesota was a better team than he has seen in years past. He called them explosive, specifically comparing quarterback-turned-wide receiver Marquis Gray to the Buckeyes Braxton Miller.
Its going to be a challenge for the defense again this weekMarquis is the kind of guy who, when you get the ball in his hands in the open field, can make guys miss and create big plays, Williams said.
The Gophers feature several other playmakers, but Williams said their offense did not differ too much from other spread teams Illinois has faced this year. He expects the game to be played fast, but not to get out of Illinois hands.
The Illini at Mondays press conference all felt as though this weekends game and the teams two games afterward were important, and, more importantly, were winnable. The Illini avoided seeming despondent or as if the upcoming games were nothing more than necessary.
Beckman summed everything up nicely when he pointed out all of the various parties this team still has to play for, including some of the guests of honor at this weeks game. We want to win in the worst way. We want to win for our dads, for veterans, for Illini nation we want to win for ourselves.
Illinois and Minnesota will kick off Saturday at 2:42 p.m. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
Illinois Notebook
-- Beckman chuckled when asked how he felt about his former team, Toledo, cracking the top 25 in the BCS, Associated Press and USA Today polls this week, the year after his departure.
Figures, he said with a short laugh. Those are my boys, my sons. Those kids playing there are now are a part of what were trying to get established now at Illinois. I cant be more proud of them, and Ill tell them to keep working to win.
-- The injury status of linebacker Jonathan Brown, a Butkus award semifinalist, is still uncertain. The junior was taken off the field in the first quarter of the OSU game and did not return to play. Beckman said Brown would see a doctor later on Monday and only afterward would his status be determined for this Saturday.
-- Running back Josh Ferguson, who is second on the team in yards per reception, should be able to play this week after sitting out two games to injury. Beckman said the freshman participated in lifting last week and ran with the team on Sunday. He said hes optimistic Ferguson would be 100 percent by Saturday.

Raiders' move to Las Vegas approved by NFL owners: When's Bears' first trip to Sin City?

Raiders' move to Las Vegas approved by NFL owners: When's Bears' first trip to Sin City?

The Oakland Raiders won't be the Oaklnad Raiders for much longer.

NFL owners approved by a 31-1 vote Monday the Raiders' move to Las Vegas, meaning Sin City will soon have its own NFL team.

With the Raiders playing in the AFC, the move doesn't affect the Bears much. But there eventually will be a road trip to Nevada.

When's the first time the Bears could play in Vegas?

Now, that's contingent on a couple things.

First, the NFL needs to keep its current scheduling model, which pits certain divisions against one another every few seasons.

Second, will the Raiders even be playing in Vegas by 2019?

A new stadium needs to be built, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday that the Raiders will stay in Oakland for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, potentially getting to Vegas for the 2019 season — when the Bears could play there in the team's inaugural campaign in the desert. But a new stadium might not be done by then, keeping the Raiders in Vegas another season. Or, maybe the Raiders could play where UNLV plays.

Whether it's two years down the road or more, there will one day be a Bears road trip to Vegas, one it's fairly certain Chicago fans will be interested in joining.

Archie Miller a good hire at Indiana, but his promotion to the big time comes with big-time expectations

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USA TODAY

Archie Miller a good hire at Indiana, but his promotion to the big time comes with big-time expectations

Archie Miller is the new Indiana head basketball coach, and while that gives Indiana the big splash it wanted for Tom Crean's successor, it remains to be seen whether it will please the Indiana fan base and its monster-sized expectations.

Miller is a great get for the Hoosiers, a guy who's taken the Dayton Flyers to four straight NCAA tournaments, including an Elite Eight appearance in 2014, a round the Hoosiers themselves haven't reached in 15 years. Miller has Big Ten experience, a former Thad Matta assistant at Ohio State, and he has experience recruiting in Big Ten Country.

He's been in line for a promotion from the A-10 to a major-conference program for a couple years now, and he was one of the biggest names at that level that Indiana or any other major-conference program looking for a new coach could have snagged.

But weren't Indiana fans expecting Steve Alford to come back to Bloomington?

Keeping in line with the enormous expectations this fan base always seems to have for this program, the internet was hoping athletics director Fred Glass could woo the former Indiana star back to his alma mater, pry him away from the most tradition-rich program in the country to spearhead a rebuilding effort for the team that finished tied for 10th in the Big Ten standings this season.

Those hopes seemed pretty unrealistic from the beginning — though it is difficult to argue with the immense financial attractiveness any Big Ten program has — but a perfect example of the kind of expectations that await Miller.

Marquette is plenty of distance up the college-basketball ladder from Dayton, but it was Crean, too, who made a career leap to the Hoosiers almost a decade ago. Crean's nine-year tenure featured some program-saving digging out from the horrendous spot Kelvin Sampson left things in. It also featured two outright Big Ten championships and three seasons of 27 or more wins. But all that couldn't keep the crushing expectations off Crean's shoulders, and one season after he won a conference title in one of the toughest conference's in college hoops, he was out.

Crean's kind of success wasn't good enough at Indiana. Will Miller's be?

Of course there was inconsistency that accompanied Crean's winning. The Hoosiers were just two wins above .500 this season, the same thing that was true a season after Indiana earned a No. 1 seed in the 2013 NCAA tournament. The two winningest seasons during Crean's tenure were followed by years in which Indiana didn't make the NCAA tournament. Not the kind of trajectory a program expecting a national championship wants to see, hence his firing.

But that goes to show how tough the task is in Bloomington, not necessarily when it comes to building a winner but when it comes to pleasing the folks in this basketball-loving state.

That's Miller's job now, and there likely won't be too long of a honeymoon period. Miller won at the lower levels of college basketball, winning 102 games over the past four seasons, but the Big Ten is a different animal. Another former Matta assistant, John Groce, found that out over his five seasons at Illinois. After getting hired off a Sweet Sixteen run at Ohio, Groce made the NCAA tournament just once in his five seasons in Champaign, the reason for the Big Ten's other coaching change this offseason.

Miller comes to Indiana with a better resume than Groce brought to Illinois — the A-10 is a much better league on an annual basis than the MAC, and Miller did more consistent winning over a longer stretch — but with a similar challenge ahead of him. Illini fans soured on Groce relatively quick, with questions about his job status lingering for a couple of years before he was fired earlier this month. Certainly Crean was never free from questions about his job status during his time in Bloomington, not even getting them to go away with a Big Ten championship last season. Will Hoosier fans treat Miller any differently if a deep tournament run doesn't come in one of Miller's first few seasons?

Of course, that all comes with the territory of being a college basketball coach, and Miller knows that well from his time as a major-conference assistant and with his brother the head coach at Arizona. But now he has to live it every day.

Miller is a great hire by Glass. It's time to find out if Indiana and its sky-high expectations make for a great landing spot for Miller.