The Illinois Fighting Illini football team capped off their non-conference schedule and first four games of the season this past weekend against Nebraska, and although it wasn’t the result they were looking for, they finished September with a 3-2 record. “We’ve got to be able, in my opinion, to look at some of the things that we’re doing well,” head coach Tim Beckman said after the Nebraska game. “We need to continue to move forward instead of dwelling on the negatives.”
Those negatives include the lack of an ability to run the ball (averaging just 80 rushing yards per game) and a defense that is allowing nearly 35 points each game. The defense also ranks 113th overall, which is seventh worst in the entire country. The season started well for Illinois with back-to-back wins at home, but then they traveled to Seattle to play the Washington Huskies and lost 44-19. Their second loss of the year came two weeks later when they traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska and got pummeled 45-14. Despite the mediocre start to the year, Coach Beckman is confident his players will turn it around: “The two losses that we’ve had, we’ve lost to two very good football teams. I also believe that going on the road in those environments is tough, there’s no question about it. That’s part of college football and you have to adapt to it, you have to be able to learn from it and you have to be able to take it to the next step.”
That next step will be this weekend when the Illini take on the Purdue Boilermakers at home. Wes Lunt, Illinois’ quarterback, was unsure whether or not he would play due to a leg injury he was nursing earlier in the week, but he has been given the go-ahead from the team’s medical staff. He will be instrumental in the Illini’s effort to move to 4-2 on the season, but what will also be crucial is the ability to run the football. Josh Ferguson, Illinois’ running back and arguably one of the best in the Big Ten, will need to step his game up with Lunt being less-than-100%.
Several special promotions are being implemented to try and attract more fans to the game; any football ticket stub will be redeemable for a free ticket to the Illinois volleyball match later Saturday evening. It is also “Orange-Out” this weekend. Illinois will wear special all-orange uniforms and fans going to the game are encouraged to wear nothing but orange.
As for the team they’ll be playing, Coach Beckman knows it won’t be easy to beat Purdue: “I think (Purdue) has gotten better each week and has consistently been competitive on the football field. I know they’ll be well-prepared and ready to roll.”
Check back for another Illini update next month!