Another Saturday, another loss for Illini
Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, left, is sacked by Ohio State defensive lineman John Simon Saturday during the first quarter in Columbus, Ohio.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tim Beckman and the Fighting Illini know they would rather be anywhere other than winless and stuck at the bottom of the Big Ten.
"Nobody wants to be in this situation but (the seniors) are trying to do whatever they can to get out of (it)," the first-year coach said Saturday night after a 52-22 loss to No. 6 Ohio State.
As has been the case for most of the season, almost nothing went right for the Illini (2-7, 0-5).
The offense foundered for much of the game, the defense was gashed for 567 yards and the Illini were left searching for answers.
"I don't think they wore us down," said freshman linebacker Mason Monheim. "It's just a matter of being great every play. One missed gap, one missed assignment can lead to a big play."
The Buckeyes (10-0, 6-0) had plenty of those. Carlos Hyde carried 18 times for 137 yards and three short touchdown runs, while Braxton Miller burnished his Heisman Trophy credentials by passing for two scores and running for another.
Meanwhile, Illinois' offense couldn't get anything going against an Ohio State defense which surrendered 49 points to Indiana and hadn't held an opponent to under 22 points since September.
"There's some mental errors in there, some mistakes that we just can't have," said Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who completed 19 of 34 passes for just 96 yards with one interception and also led the way in rushing with 15 carries for a meager 36 yards.
Beckman was most disappointed in how his team played when it had the ball. The Illini managed just 170 net yards.
"It's too sporadic for me," he said. "We've got to be more consistent on offense. We've got be able to drive the football. We've got to put seven points on the scoreboard in the red zone. That's what I'm used to and what we're striving to do better."
He was referring to the first quarter, when the Illini played on even terms and might have even gotten the better of the Buckeyes. They put together extended drives that took them to first downs at the Ohio State 29- and 10-yard lines — yet had to settle for field goals each time by Nick Immekus.
After Ohio State slipped out of those two scoring threats, Hyde and Miller took over to key the Buckeyes to a 24-0 run in the second quarter. And that was the end of any Illinois hopes.
It was the sixth consecutive loss for the Illini and their 11th in a row in the Big Ten.
Beckman, an assistant at Bowling Green under Ohio State first-year head coach Urban Meyer, said the Illini aren't facing anything dramatically different from what his Toledo team did his first season there.
"We hit bumps at Toledo, too, the first year," said Beckman, who came to Illinois after coaching for the Rockets for three years. "We only won five games that first year. The bump might have been a little bit higher but you always face bumps. You want to do the best for the kids."
The Illini are running out of time. They host Minnesota and Purdue the next two weeks, then close the season at Northwestern.
There's not much else left to do but try to get better.
"Coach keeps telling us and we keep telling ourselves we are going to fight and keep pushing these last three games," defensive back Terry Hawthorne said. "We are not going to give anyone an easy game against us."
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